Denver awaits Rifle/Glenwood hoops rivalry |

Denver awaits Rifle/Glenwood hoops rivalry

Jon Mitchell
Glenwood Springs High School junior Cameron Horning goes up for a jump shot this past Saturday during a game against Pueblo West in Glenwood Springs. The Demons will play the Rifle Bears at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Friday.
Jon Mitchell / Post Independent |

Playing at the Pepsi Center on an NBA hardwood floor is typically a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Glenwood Springs High School’s boys and girls basketball programs get to do it twice in two years.

And this year, the Rifle High boys and girls basketball teams get to come along for the ride.

The Bears and Demons will take their longtime rivalry to Colorado’s Front Range today when the teams play each other at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Game time is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. for the girls and 3 p.m. for the boys game.

“This is something that all of these kids will remember for the rest of their lives,” Glenwood boys basketball coach Cory Hitchcock said. “They’ll realize how special this is down the road not only to play at the Pepsi Center, but to do it against their chief rival.”

The games are part of the Denver Nuggets’ Preps to Pros program, which showcases different high school hoops teams around Colorado. It’s the second time in two years that the Demons have played in Denver — they played Steamboat Springs at the Pepsi Center in Denver last year.

“This is such a great opportunity for our kids,” Rifle boys basketball coach Roger Walters said. “You always dream of playing on a stage like that as a kid weather you dream of playing pro or if you have a chance to play in the state tournament or something. The fact that we get to do it or a conference game is great, and we have such a great relationship with Cory [Hitchcock, Glenwood’s coach] and his staff.”

Glenwood actually reached out to Rifle to play the game in Denver after Nuggets team officials had approached Hitchcock about playing in the game again after both Glenwood teams posted victories against Steamboat. Both Steamboat and Delta turned down the chance to play in Denver, though.

Rifle, however, jumped at the chance and everything that went with it. That included a ticket-sales drive run by the players, who sold discounted seats to the games at the Pepsi Center. Each boys and girls team was asked to sell $2,500 worth of tickets, which include admission to the Nuggets’ home game against the Los Angeles Clippers later tonight.

Neither team had a problem selling those tickets, either. Glenwood even exceeded expectations, with the boys and girls teams combining for $8,200 in ticket sales. Rifle also met its ticket-sales quota easily.

“This is such a cool thing,” said Rifle girls coach Kristy Wallner, who said her team sold anywhere from 80 to 150 seats for the game. “This gives our kids a chance to see where basketball can take a very small percentage of players. It’s a great opportunity.”

Oh, and by the way, the matchup is pretty good too.

Rifle’s boys (3-2), who began their Class 4A Western Slope League schedule with a loss Steamboat Springs on Wednesday, has begun to click early on even though the Bears returned no starters from last season’s league-championship team. Rifle’s girls (5-0), which beat the Sailors in Steamboat on Wednesday, have shown a lot of improvement from last season thanks to a mix of talented underclassmen and upperclassmen.

Glenwood’s boys (3-3 nonleague) had dropped three straight headed into Thursday’s game at Delta, but those losses came against stellar teams in Faith Christian (No. 2 Class 3A), Pueblo West (4-2). Their lopsided loss to Montrose (1-2), however, didn’t sit well with Hitchcock for what he believed was a lack of effort by his players.

Glenwood’s girls (4-2 nonleague), though it lost first-team all-state player Delaney Gaddis to graduation last season, suffered its two losses to ninth-ranked Montrose and fifth-ranked Pueblo West this past weekend. Still, it also earned a last-second win over Faith Christian, which is ranked seventh in this week’s Class 3A girls basketball poll. The Demons played Delta on Thursday night.

The games will count in the 4A WSL standings. Glenwood will be the home team, meaning the Demons gave up their home court to host the Bears in the Pepsi Center.

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