Rifle girls look to advance to ‘Great 8’
Post Independent Staff
Twenty wins and a spot in the Class 4A girls’ “Great 8” state basketball tournament. Those are the goals Rifle will be aiming at when it lines up against Cheyenne Mountain this afternoon at Denver’s Regis University.
Rifle (19-4) advanced to the 5 p.m. second-round playoff game by defeating Ralston Valley, 50-36, on Tuesday.
Now, the Bears face a stiff opponent in the 21-2, eighth-ranked Indians, whose only losses this season have come against Class 5A Grand Junction and cross-town rival Liberty, from the Colorado Springs Metro League league.
In a home contest Tuesday, Cheyenne Mountain raised its current winning streak to eight games with a first-round thrashing of Pueblo Central, 71-57. Three Indians, paced by Holly Benson’s 18 points, hit for double figures.
Benson, a 5-foot-10-inch junior, is Cheyenne Mountain’s go-to player. She’s the top scorer in Class 4A with 23 points per game and also adds just shy of 11 rebounds each contest.
Even if Rifle successfully shuts down Benson, the Indians have additional offensive weapons in senior Caitlyn Saulsburg (12.6 points per game), and sisters Claire and Lauren Pedrick.
The Bears’ counterattack consists of a potent one-two-three punch in all-Western Slope League first-teamers Krista Wagstrom, Renee Laudick and Kristen Neffendorf.
Wagstrom, who scored 19 points and had 16 rebounds in the Ralston Valley game, leads the team in both categories.
Laudick lifted the Bears out of an offensive funk in Tuesday’s game by scoring 10 of her 13 points in the third quarter to give Rifle the lead for good against the Mustangs. Neffendorf, the starting point guard, plays a key role in setting up the team’s offense, along with the ability to draw fouls by taking the ball to the basket.
The winner of the Brenda House region semifinal game plays the survivor of the Denver Mullen-Colorado Springs Harrison contest at 7 p.m., Saturday at Regis.
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