Rifle girls net season’s first win while on the road | PostIndependent.com

Rifle girls net season’s first win while on the road

GRAND JUNCTION ” Kendall Babler enjoys playing in close, back-and-forth games such as the one Rifle had in its 69-67 win over Grand Junction Central on Monday.

“I love these types of games,” she said. “These are the most fun to play (in) ” it’s the best.

And when it counted the most, the Bears sophomore was at her best.

In a span of 27 seconds, Babler turned Rifle’s narrow 63-61 lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter to a four-point bulge when she hit 5-of-6 free-throw attempts after three Warrior personal fouls made to gain ball possession.

Given the opportunities to score from the free-throw line, Babler, like the rest of the Bears, didn’t miss many.

Rifle converted 18-of-24 free-throw attempts. It turned out to be the difference in the Bears earning their first win (in three games) of the 2005-06 season.

“The free throws we made in the fourth quarter were money makers,” said coach Jack Smith. “Those were the ones that really counted.”

Especially when measured against previously unbeaten Central’s effort from the line.

The Warriors shot a meager 58 percent (18-of-31) on the night. Their inability to hit free throws with any consistency showed down the stretch.

In the fourth quarter, Central went 6-for-14. Rifle countered by nailing 8-of-12 shots from the line. Missed free throws by the Warriors’ Hillary Holtz and Briana Essman after Bear personals appeared to have iced the game for Rifle.

But the Warriors, as they showed earlier, didn’t go down easily.

In the first half, the two teams exchanged the lead between each other 14 times. Megan McWilliams led the charge for Rifle, scoring eight of her 14 points in the second quarter.

Erin Kame’s basket at the buzzer gave Central a 28-27 lead at intermission.

Then Kristin Guettler caught fire.

The Bears forward made up for scoring nothing in the first half with 14 of a game-high 20 points in the third quarter.

Rifle outscored Central 28-16 in the period and led by 17 at one point, until the Warriors chipped that advantage down to eight. The Bears raised their lead back to 55-44 when Ashlee Hazzard canned a 3-pointer at the end of the third.

Another Central comeback ” an 8-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter ” reduced Rifle’s lead to two with 5:24 to go. Baskets by Lindsey Bowen and an offensive putback from a missed Bears free throw by McWilliams widened the gap to 61-55 with a little over three minutes to play.

The game’s final dramatics were set up after Alinia Brennan and Aspen Peppel hit field goals. Up 64-63 after Brennan’s 13-foot jumper with 31 seconds left, Babler pulled the Bears out of that tight spot with two quick free throws on the next possession and later made a key rebound after a Central miss at the line.

Ashley Girado got the Warriors back to within a point of Rifle’s lead by draining a 3-pointer in with 5.8 seconds left.

Fittingly, Babler scored the game’s last point ” with a free throw right after.

“This was a good win for us,” Smith said.

Rifle’s victory gives the Bears momentum heading into this weekend’s games at the Black Canyon Tournament in Montrose before shutting down for the holiday break.

Rifle opens tournament play with Aztec, N. Mex. Friday afternoon, followed by two games against yet-to-be determined opponents in the eight-team tournament Saturday.

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