Rifle boys basketball’s rally comes up short in loss to Coronado, 66-62
Post Independent Contributor
Playing inside Jack Smith Gymnasium on Wednesday night in the first round of the class 4A state playoffs, the No. 21 Rifle Bears boys basketball team came storming back from a 40-31 halftime deficit, only to fall just short in the waning moments of the game, as the No. 44 Coronado Cougars held on for a 66-62 win to advance to the second round of the state basketball tournament.
Coronado, from the Colorado Springs Metro League, led for much of the first half after the Bears had jumped out to a 12-11 lead midway through the first quarter. It was junior Garrett Robinson who had three baskets, two of them 3-pointers, to propel the Bears to their slim margin in the game’s early stages.
The Cougars just kept coming at the Bears with an aggressive defensive style and a multi-faceted offensive attack. On the night, Coronado got balanced scoring contributions from seniors Bryce McKee, Zak Pasquarello, and junior Brycen Scherr who all dropped in 14 points. Sophomore Jalen Austin had 13 points, and junior Ladarius Mays helped out with 10 points.
The Bears crept within 24-20 with 4:22 to go until halftime on baskets by the senior trio of Omar Chavez, Christian Trevizo, and Darien Church. Junior Tanner Cotner hit a 3-pointer and scored on a driving layup, but a 3-pointer by Austin and a short bank shot by Scherr kept the visitors in the driver’s seat as the game reached its halfway point.
Ramping up some defensive pressure of their own, the Bears came charging out of the locker room to win the third period by a count of 17-8. With the gym nearly full and the crowd getting loud, Chavez took matters into his own hands by scoring 10 points for Rifle in the third period alone, mostly on hard drives to the basket, giving the Bears a brief lead at 45-42 at the 3:47 mark of the period.
With the back-and-forth tussle now in full swing, the fourth and decisive period began with Rifle and Coronado knotted at 48-all.
Coronado took the initiative quickly as Austin got a leaner to barely roll over the front of the hoop as he was fouled. The ensuing free throw by the Cougar sophomore put Coronado up 51-48. Church hit a foul shot and Trevizo got a basket to tie the game once again.
The Cougars then went on a 7-0 run that ultimately proved to be fatal to the Bears. Following a couple of free tosses and a driving score by Mays, McKee hit a short, floating bank shot after a quick crossover move from the perimeter that gave Coronado the confidence to take command of the game.
With 4:13 showing on the clock, McKee buried a 3-pointer from deep along the left side baseline, and it looked like the contest was in the books.
Rifle though, was far from ready to call it a season and check in the uniforms. Robinson netted two free throws for the Bears, and junior Trey Lujan hit a basket to bring the home team within 63-58 with 1:14 left to play.
Rifle inched closer at 63-61 on a 3-pointer by Cotner, but following a Cougar turnover, a hard driving shot off the glass by Chavez was just off the mark and the Bears were forced to send Coronado’s Mays to the foul line. Mays converted both charity tosses and the Bears turned the ball over in a last ditch effort to pull closer as time expired on the season.
Chavez led Rifle in scoring with 16 points. Robinson and Cotner each contributed 15 points, with Lujan helping the cause with 9 points.
Second-year Rifle Head Coach Kyle Daniell and his Bears end the season with a 14-10 overall record. Coronado (8-16) will advance to face another Western Slope League opponent on Saturday when they will travel to take on the Palisade Bulldogs.