Demons, Bears set for showdown
GSPI Sports Editor
Sure, the Rifle and Glenwood Springs girls basketball teams are vying for first place in the Class 4A Western Slope League standings. Yes, the two teams only have one league loss combined.
But tonight’s 7:30 p.m. contest at Glenwood Springs High School’s Chavez-Spencer Gym isn’t only about win-loss records or league standings.
It’s about playing that team just down the road. The rival.
“I think the players on both teams really get after each other, and you can throw out a lot of things ” like the records. I think it’s a pretty healthy rivalry,” said Rifle head coach Rick Schmitz, who has been through quite a few Demon-Bears games in his 17 years as head coach.
Second-year Demon head coach Deb Henderson understands the added meaning of the game against Rifle, but she would prefer her players not get sidetracked by any added hoopla.
“The girls look forward to playing Rifle every year,” Henderson said. “We’re going up against a really good team and we’ve got to prepare to play a really smart game and not get too caught up in the whole rivalry part of it ” don’t make a lot of mistakes, play hard and have fun.”
The Bears have won three of the past four meetings against Glenwood, including a sweep last season, and enter the tonight’s game as the favorite.
Rifle is undefeated in league play at 3-0 (7-3 overall), but the Demons are close behind in league standings with a 2-1 record (5-5 overall).
“It’s definitely a big game for us,” Henderson said. “It’s a big league game and they are the only team right now who’s undefeated. It would be a thrill to give them their first league loss.”
In order to accomplish that goal, the Demons will need to control point guard Kristin Neffendorf and forward/center Krista Wagstrom.
“Neffendorf has been scoring a lot of points, but she’s a very quiet player,” Henderson said. “She sees the floor well and she sets her team up.
“And then, of course you can’t leave out Wagstrom. She’s a stronger player this year and she’s playing inside and outside.”
Nikita Daniely likely will spend much of her night shadowing Wagstrom, while Yuri Salvidrez will see plenty of Neffendorf.
“Nikita and Yuri are my best defenders, so they will have their work cut out for them,” Henderson said. “But the whole defense needs to come to play.”
Rifle’s methodical, disciplined game is difficult for any team to handle. While not an exceptionally high scoring team, the Bears force even run-and-gun teams to play at their pace and in their element.
Where the Demons may have an advantage is in the paint. Daniely, Amber Sutherland and freshman Sam Ciani all have good size and, unlike early in the season, have been staying out of foul trouble.
Sutherland leads the team offensively with around a dozen points per night.
“Their inside play is, I think, excellent,” Schmitz said. “And their perimeter kids do a nice job of making that offense work by hitting shots from the perimeter.”
Both teams have the weekend off following tonight’s game. The Rifle and Glenwood boys teams match up Friday night at Chavez-Spencer Gym.
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