Rifle girls finish fourth for state nod
GRAND JUNCTION – The explanation was simple.
“We just got outrebounded,” said Rifle coach Rick Schmitz, summing up a tough 53-49 loss to Montezuma-Cortez in the girls third-place game of the 4A District Tournament Saturday at Mesa State College.
“That’s the way it’s been all weekend for us,” the coach continued of the Bears 1-2 record in tournament play.
“We played well enough offensively, but we did not defend,” Schmitz said. “We didn’t move our feet at times and it hurt us.”
But it took an outstanding effort by Cortez’ Stefanie Allison to exploit the Bears.
The 5-foot-10 junior burned the Bears for 24 points, including two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter which swayed momentum back to the Panthers after Rifle had taken a 40-37 lead on Ashley Gavito’s field goal and a free throw by Krista Wagstrom.
Allison tied the game at 40-40 following her own miss, then completed the three-point play by sinking a free throw after the basket.
She put the Panthers ahead on the next possession on a 3-pointer, after Wagstrom missed a layup at the other end, then upped Cortez’s lead to 46-40 by hitting another trey with Wagstrom right in her face.
“It was a mismatch and I was just feeling it, so I shot the ball,” Allison said of the six-point switch.
“Those two 3s she hit were huge,” Schmitz said. “Defending the 3-point shot … that’s one of the weaker parts of our game.”
Still, the Bears refused to cave in.
They pulled the Cortez lead down to a point when Autumn Hedberg nailed her fourth 3-pointer of the contest with 1:18 left. She would leave a few plays later with her fifth personal foul.
The Panthers’ Nicole Stephens calmly stepped up to the line and sank both shots for a 50-47 lead.
With time running out, the Bears saw an opportunity to tie the game go out the window when McWilliam’s 3-point try circled the rim, then fell out with 20 seconds left.
Cortez sealed the win by hitting 3-of-4 free throws.
By finishing as the tournament’s No. 4 seed, Rifle’s girls likely will face a road trip this week in the 4A State Tournament. They also lost 64-30 to Montrose on Friday night.
The playoff bracket is scheduled to be released this afternoon by the Colorado High School Activities Association.
In Saturday’s 4A girls championship, Montrose shocked Moffat County 30-27.
If … if … if Kessie Schwanebeck’s 3-point shot had rolled in, instead of out, the complexion of a 42-25 loss to Palisade could have been radically different for the Glenwood Springs girls on Saturday morning.
If that shot would have gone in, the Demons could have continued a promising 6-0 run in the fourth quarter and could have made a serious attempt at securing fifth-place in the 4A District Tournament and the final berth in the upcoming State Tournament.
But, the Demons weren’t that lucky.
Instead, the missed field goal nipped Glenwood’s rally in the bud. Palisade scored, then shut Glenwood’s offense down completely.
The Demons missed 14 straight shots after Megan McKinnie’s basket, and a seven-point deficit grew suddenly grew to double digits.
That lack of offense plagued the Demons the entire game.
In the fourth, the three baskets they had was their second-best output of the contest.
Overall, the Demons hit a meager 18 percent (9-of-50) from the floor, and were forced to play catch-up from the opening tipoff.
They were immediately put in a 9-2 hole by Palisade, who had five of the six field goals scored by either team in the first period.
Heather Hert accounted for the Demons’ lone basket of the quarter as the team went 1-for-9 from the field.
In the second quarter, the Demons responded with 12 points, their best offensive showing, to remain behind by seven at halftime.
Palisade shut the door on Glenwood after intermission.
The Bulldogs opened a 30-14 lead on an 11-0 run, stalled momentarily by Schwanebeck, who scored her only basket of the game (a 3-pointer) with 1:43 left.
That turned out to be the only score the Demons would have in the period.
They went 1-for-11 from the floor before opening the fourth quarter with three straight buckets.
The quick scores renewed the Demons’ hopes.
Down 33-25 after McKinnie’s basket, Glenwood had momentum and more than five minutes to take the lead away from the Bulldogs.
That never materialized. Instead, Palisade scored the quarter’s final eight points.
Forward Kelsey Harrington was the only player from either team to finish in double figures. The 5 foot-8 junior led the Bulldogs with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Schwanebeck and Natalie Lancaster in their final games in a Demon uniform led Glenwood with five points each. Jeri Polowchena was the game’s leading rebounder with nine.
The Glenwood girls finished the season 13-9.
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