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Rifle downs Central

G. Sean KellyGSPI Sports Editor
Post Independent Photo/Kara K. Pearson Rifle's Kendall Babler (25) drives the lane as Grand Junction Central's Erin Kame (20) puts a hand up during Wednesday night's game. The Bears won, 54-47.
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RIFLE – Grand Junction Central looked well on its way to knocking off its second Class 4A Western Slope team in as many nights through the first 13 minutes of play at Rifle High School Wednesday night. Rifle had other plans, however, as a key second-quarter rally, coupled with clutch shooting from the line, led to a 54-47 nonleague girls basketball victory for the Bears.

The Class 5A Warriors, who defeated Glenwood Springs Tuesday, built an 11-point lead against the homestanding Bears and, to that point, had given up only three Rifle field goals.Then the Bears’ pressure defense and work from the charity stripe took over.Rifle ended the first half with a 12-2 run and went on to score 25 points from the free-throw line in the game.”The last two minutes (of the first half), to cut it to one” was key, according to Rifle head coach Rick Schmitz. “We were struggling, then we got going a little on offense off our defense.”With 2 minutes, 18 second left in the half and the Bears trailing 26-15, Rifle’s Kendall Babler got the pressure defense going with a couple rifle: see page 15

rifle: from page 14of steals, and point guard Kristen Neffendorf tallied six points as the Bears cut the lead to 28-27 at the break.And the Bears kept the momentum in the second half, doing much of the damage from the free-throw line. A bucket by Renee Laudick gave Rifle its first lead since the first quarter and a conventional three-point play by Neffendorf pushed the margin to 32-30. Central looked to be on the cusp of taking over the inside game with a putback by Ashley Girodo and an nice move in the paint by Bri Essman, but, again, Rifle’s defense tightened up.”The second half was a battle inside,” Schmitz said. “Everyone was flying around and if you didn’t block out they were going to score. It seemed to go back and forth. I never felt comfortable.”

The Warriors went cold midway through the third and the Bears went to the line – often.Rifle didn’t score another field goal in the quarter but hit 10-of-14 from the line – it didn’t hurt that the Bears were in the bonus with 3:50 left to play in the third quarter. Defensively, Rifle held the Warriors to a single basket in the last three minutes to take a 42-38 advantage into the final frame. Central opened the fourth with a 6-2 run to even the game at 44-all, but Rifle answered with a 6-0 run of its own and never trailed again, sealing the contest with a 4-of-6 free-throw showing in the final 2:07.In the contest, Rifle was 25-of-34 from the line, while Central finished 6-of-13.Neffendorf and Haley Hubbell, who kept the Bears (3-1) in the game early with seven of the team’s 10 first-quarter points, led all scorers with 14 points each. Kristin Guettler and Laudick also finished in double-figures with 10 each.Alaina Brennan paced the Warriors (4-3) with 10 points.Rifle hosts the two-day Western Slope Basketball Tournament starting Friday.


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