Lady Bears pull off comeback, top Cardinals
In an early bid for game of the year, the Rifle Bears girls basketball team capped off an 11-point fourth-quarter comeback Friday night on the road in Parachute to top the Cardinals 56-54 on two late Carley Rice free throws, finishing off a highly entertaining offensive display in a non-conference matchup between Class 3A and 4A schools.
Grand Valley would head into the fourth quarter with a 42-31 lead thanks to a 16-0 run to close the third quarter as senior guard Kylyn Rigsby closed out the quarter with eight straight points, hitting a three-pointer in transition before then stealing the ball on Rifle’s next possession to go in for a layup. She then finished off the quarter with an and-1 layup, hitting the free throw to give the Cardinals the 11-point lead.
Riding high following the third quarter, the Cardinals appeared poised to run away with the game, but a combination of foul trouble for Rigsby and fellow senior Bailey Rowe, along with some hot shooting from Rifle junior guard Katy Manuppella and junior guard Jessie Pressler from beyond the arc allowed the Bears to get back into the game.
The Cardinals would have to play the final minute of the game with just four players on the court due to Rigsby, Rowe and freshmen Jordyn Pittman and Lohgan Teter fouling out.
Once the Cardinals were forced to play down a player, the Bears were able to take the lead as senior forward Samantha Hinkle hit two free throws and a putback, while junior guard Elly Walters hit one of two free throws, leading to Rice’s two hits from the charity stripe to seal the win.
Leading up to the fourth quarter, Friday’s showdown between the two teams proved to be worth the admission as both offenses clicked early.
Rowe started the game with a layup for the Cardinals before Walters answered with a three-pointer to give Rifle an early lead one night after having a rough go of things offensively against the Palisade Bulldogs.
Walters would hit one of two free throws before Pressler drilled a corner three and Hinkle hit a layup in traffic to make it 9-5 Rifle early.
The Cardinals would then answer back with two free throws each from sophomore guard Shaya Chenoweth and Pittman to tie the game before Walters would hit a left-handed floater in the lane to take the lead.
Rowe would close out the quarter with a layup in a sign of things to come for both teams.
Starting the second quarter, Manuppella hit her first three-pointer of the night to give Rifle a 14-11 lead. The junior guard would finish 6-for-6 from beyond the arc and could have been 7-for-7 if not for an offensive foul call in the post, wiping out a big three-pointer in the third quarter.
“I’ve seen her (Manuppella) do that before in practice,” Wallner said. “Her nickname on the team is actually Shooter, so we’ve been asking her to shoot in games. Against Palisade she made a play where she went coast-to-coast and hit the layup while drawing the foul. She looked over at the bench and just smiled and our coaching staff just looked at each other and said, ‘Here we go.’ After that game we talked about believing in your role on this team and if you’re a shooter, then shoot. She certainly did that tonight and really needed her at both ends of the floor.”
Walters would follow Manuppella’s three with a three of her own to spark the Bears, but the Cardinals would respond with a 13-0 run to take a 24-17 lead as Rowe knocked down two three-pointers while Rigsby got a putback to fall and hit one of two free throws.
Manuppella would stop Grand Valley’s run with two three-pointers of her own before adding one of two free throws from the line to tie the game at 24-all.
From there the two teams would trade free throws before Rifle would take a slim 27-26 lead into the half.
Coming out for the second half, the Bears seemed to pick up right where they left off as Hinkle hit two jump-hooks to start the quarter, stretching Rifle’s lead to 31-26. However, the Cardinals would respond in a big way.
Teter hit a jumper in the paint before Chenoweth picked up a steal and raced in for the layup. Pittman then got a putback to fall before Chenoweth added her second bucket of the quarter. From there, Rigsby went on her own personal 8-0 run to close out the quarter, igniting the home crowd on a cold Friday night.
The 16-0 run didn’t seem to affect the Bears much in the huddle in between quarters though.
“I told the girls there was a ton of game left, and they were saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got this. Let’s chip away,’ ” Wallner said. “We knew they were in foul trouble and we wanted to force them to foul us and send us to the line where we could chip away with the clock stopped.”
Rifle’s plan worked as the Bears attempted 14 free throws in the quarter, while Manuppella would hit three three-pointers in the final eight minutes, and Pressler added another three-pointer before the quartet of Cardinals fouled out, setting up Rice’s heroics to cap off the win.
“We’ve had that (four players) happen to us on junior varsity, but we’ve never had that happen on varsity,” Grand Valley Head Coach Jake Higuera said. “We had four girls with four fouls for what felt like an eternity. Then it all happened so fast. It’s a rough one to lose; it definitely hurts to lose this game. But we had four starters on the bench and they were standing and cheering for the other four on the court, believing in them. As a coach, you’re so proud of them for the way they responded to the situation like that. I’m so proud to be their coach and to have them play for me tonight in the way that they did. They all have great heart, work ethic and a love for one another and I’m just so proud of the way they fought tonight against a good Rifle team.”
For the Bears, Manuppella led the way with 19 points, while Walters added 16 points. Hinkle chipped in with 12 points in the win.
For the Cardinals, Rowe led the way with 20 points, while Chenoweth chipped in 12 points. Rigsby added 11 points in the loss.
Grand Valley (3-4) will travel to Gunnison today for a game at 2:30 p.m., while Rifle (6-3) will travel to Glenwood on Tuesday for a showdown with the Demons at 6 p.m.
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