Rifle enters Hornets’ nest in opener round
The exciting thing about state tournament basketball is the contests often involve teams that have little or no history against each other and would otherwise never meet.
Such is the case for the Rifle girls’ basketball team as the Bears travel to Pueblo County today for the first round of the Class 4A State Tournament. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m. at the Special Events Center in Pueblo.
There’s good reason the two teams don’t see each other often – mainly 300 miles and 5 hours of driving.
Nonetheless, the Bears (14-8) will make the long trip.Obviously the ride back would be much easier with win under their belts.
That, however, will take an upset.
Western Slope League Rifle enters the contest as the 25th seed, while the South Central League Hornets (16-6) have the eighth seed, as well as the home-court advantage.
The two squads do have a common opponent in Alamosa, and, if blowout wins mean anything, the results would lead one to believe the game could be closer than the seeding would indicate.
The Bears faced South Central’s Alamosa in the fourth game of the season and took down the Maroons 40-21. In the Hornets’ two league meetings with Alamosa, Pueblo County came out on top 43-25 and 41-24.
While Rifle hasn’t faced the Hornets this season, they undoubtedly know about their leading offensive threat, Rachel Quintana. The 5-foot-10 senior was an honorable mention all-state player last year when Pueblo County advanced to the semifinals of the state tournament before falling to Mullen.
So far this season the Hornets advanced to the South Central District finals before losing to 57-51 to Pueblo South.
Rifle also comes into the state tourney off a loss. The Bears dropped their district semifinal game to eventual champion Montrose, then lost to Moffat County in the third-place game.
To rebound from the loss to Moffat – which is a potential second-round opponent – Rifle will likely need more from its two all-league players.
Ashley Gavito and Krista Wagstrom, who each averaged double-digit scoring all season, combined for two points against Moffat.
While the scoring from the big guns would be nice, Rifle’s game is based on defense and the pace of the game more than scoring.
The Bears lost just two games during the regular season and districts when they held their opponents under 50 points, but have a 2-5 record when the opposition breaks the half-century mark.
The winner of the contest advances to the round of 16 against the winner of the No. 24-seed Moffat County at No. 9 Longmont game. If Rifle wins it will travel to play on Friday, regardless of the opponent.
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.