Rifle boys beat Bulldogs; shorthanded girls lose
RIFLE — Palisade High School’s boys basketball team kept getting frustrated on Tuesday night. The Rifle Bears, however, kept their composure.
Avery Lujan scored a game-high 16 points, Austin Boone had a crucial block down the stretch and Luis Carreon hit some clutch foul shots when it mattered, and Rifle rallied for a 46-39 victory against the Bulldogs in a Class 4A Western Slope League game at the Rifle High gym.
“The longer that the game went on, the better we handled the pressure,” Rifle boys coach Roger Walters said. “This is the first time that these kids have handled pressure at the varsity level, so it was great to see them respond the way they did.”
The Bears (5-5 overall, 2-3 4A WSL play) definitely responded in a positive way following a stretch where they lost five of six games headed into their game against the Bulldogs. Palisade held a 23-17 halftime lead. But Rifle crept back into it with some timely third-quarter shooting, then took advantage of the foul shots they got from the Bulldogs’ foul trouble and fourth-quarter fouls.
“That was really a big thing for us coming into this game,” said Boone, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. “We were making a lot of mistakes, so our goal today was to slow things down and keep calm.”
Marques Combs finished with a team-high 11 points off the bench and Brad Baker chipped in nine for the Bulldogs (2-7, 1-2 league), who didn’t relinquish the lead until the end of the third quarter. Rifle got plenty of chances without the clock running, though, with four of their 22 fourth-quarter foul shots coming off of Palisade’s technical fouls.
“This was a team win,” Carreon said. “It was a total team effort all the way.”
That hadn’t been the case prior to Tuesday, Rogers said.
“For the first nine games of the season, it was a fiasco out there on the floor,” the longtime Rifle coach said. “We weren’t in sync and weren’t playing together. We’ve practiced great and played together well in practice, but we’ve had a hard time bringing that out onto the floor during a game. Tonight, we finally did that.”
And that showed in the third quarter.
A three-point play and a jumper by Carreon gave the Bears their first lead at 24-23 with 5 minutes, 19 seconds left in the third quarter. Palisade followed not long afterward with a 7-0 run, but a turnaround jumper from Jacob Boone with five seconds remaining in the stanza put the Bears up 33-32.
That’s when the Bulldogs came unglued. Palisade coach Jeremiah Baskin was called for a technical when, after Travis Thiessen was called for an over-the-back foul, he sarcastically and continuously yelled out, “Great rebound, Travis!” Austin Boone sank both the double-bonus and technical-foul free throws, and Rifle took the lead for good at 37-32.
The Bulldogs made it close, though, as a layup from Ian Schierland pulled them within 41-39 with less than a minute to play. Carreon, however, sank two more foul shots with 40 ticks left. On Palisade’s next possession, Combs rebounded his own missed layup and tried for a putback. But Austin Boone swatted it into the hands of Carreon, who hit 1-of-2 foul shots with 16 seconds left to seal it.
“That block was the beginning of the end of the game for them,” Walters said. “That was huge.”
Girls: Palisade 46, Rifle 33
RIFLE — Ashlyn Brown finished with a game-high 15 points to go with a 10-point performance from Aspen Guray, and Palisade (7-2 overall, 3-0 4A WSL) took control down the stretch to hand the shorthanded Bears (7-3, 3-2 league) their second league loss of the season.
Elly Walters finished with 13 points and seven assists and Jessie Pressler added eight points for Rifle, and a layup and 3-pointer from Pressler at thee end of the third quarter pulled Rifle within 28-23. Palisade quickly responded with a jumper from Abby Thiessen and layups from Ashlyn Brown and Christa Brown, however, and Palisade built its lead back to double figures with less than three minutes to play.
Rifle, which began the season 6-0, has gone 1-3 overall since the loss of junior post player Emily Neuroth to an ankle injury on Dec. 19.
Both Rifle teams continue league play at home Friday against Eagle Valley. Palisade plays at Battle Mountain, also on Friday.
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