Rifle Bears girls basketball team advances in playoffs with exciting win over Green Mountain
With just 54 seconds showing on the game clock at Rifle’s Jack Smith Gymnasium, senior forward Samantha Hinkle stood at the foul line all alone with her team trailing 31-30 in Friday night’s state playoff game with the Green Mountain Rams and the season hanging in the balance.
Hinkle calmly swished both ends of a one-and-one opportunity, and then moments later would hit two more charity tosses to send the Bears to an exciting 34-31 win.
“We knew that Sam (Hinkle) was due to make some free throws,” said Rifle Head Coach Kristy Wallner. “She had missed her previous four attempts, so it was time.”
In contrast to the edge-of-your-seat ending, the first half of play didn’t provide much in the way of offensive fireworks, as Rifle managed just one basket in the first quarter, and the Rams could only tally a lone free throw in the second period.
Rifle did strike first just 30 seconds into the game as junior guard Elly Walters drove the baseline and hit a layup to put the Bears up 2-0.
Green Mountain, from the 4A Denver Jeffco League, would score the game’s next 12 points as the Rams’ Shelby Ransom, Brecon Antrillo and Corrina Archuleta would account for the bulk of the scoring.
Hinkle got Rifle back on track at the 6:24 mark of the second period as she scored on a putback off the glass, and Walters pulled off the traditional three-point play with a layup and free throw to draw the home team within 12-7. When junior Katy Manuppella hit from beyond the arc and Walters grabbed a rebound and put the ball back in the hoop, the game stood at 13-all at intermission.
“The message to the girls at halftime was that we have nothing to be afraid of. We came back to tie the game in that second quarter and just relax now and play,” stated Wallner.
The second half resembled a rugby scrum at times as both the Rams and Bears began to scratch and claw in hopes of continuing their season another week.
Walters, a better passer than any of the Denver Bronco quarterbacks, threaded the needle with a long range toss to Peyton Caldwell for a layup to get Rifle in gear. It was Hinkle then scoring down low, followed by Manuppella hitting a regular bucket and a corner three-pointer to give the Bears a 22-17 lead.
The Rams, coached by veteran Rudy Martin, who won a 5A boys state title while at Columbine, wouldn’t let Rifle get comfortable, as they scored the final four points of the quarter to make it 22-21 in favor of the Bears with 8 minutes left to decide things.
Walters, playing with four fouls for a good portion of the second half, hit a three-pointer to put Rifle up 30-23, but Green Mountain’s Savanna Hapke answered with a three-ball of her own to keep the Rams’ pulse beating.
The Rams’ Archuleta, who scored 11 points on the night, hit a driving layup and converted a free throw after being fouled to give Green Mountain a 31-30 lead with just over a minute to play.
Prior to Hinkle’s game-ending heroics at the foul line, Caldwell came up with what may have been the game’s biggest play for Rifle.
Hustling to save a pass that was going out of bounds under the Rifle basket, Caldwell managed to toss the ball off the leg of a Green Mountain defender, keeping Rifle in possession of the basketball. Hinkle was then fouled on a drive to the hoop, and the Bears would live to fight another battle.
That battle for Rifle, now 21-3 on the season, will take place Tuesday against either Air Academy or Berthoud in the state tournament’s Sweet Sixteen.
Walters led Rifle with 14 points, scoring her career 1000th point in the process. Hinkle and Manuppella each contributed 8 points for the Western Slope League champion Bears.
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