Rifle’s rally comes up short in finals | PostIndependent.com

Rifle’s rally comes up short in finals

Jim Noelker/Post Independent Photo

FRUITA ” The best thing about Rifle’s 34-32 loss to Montrose in Saturday’s Class 4A girls District 6 tournament championship game is the Bears’ season continues and there’s a state playoff game to prepare for.

The worst part is the Bears have Sunday to think about both.

What Rifle has to be happy with is the comeback it mounted against the Southwestern League champion Indians.

“I like the fact when we got down, we never quit and kept hacking away,” said Rifle coach Rick Schmitz.

Trailing by 11 points deep into the third quarter, Rifle clawed back into the game by scoring 16 of the game’s remaining 24 points.

With Rifle down 26-17 with 3:51 left in the third period, two Haley Hubbell free throws along with field goals from Kristin Guettler and Kristin Neffendorf narrowed the gap to 28-21.

The Indians pumped in a couple of buckets to stay up by seven early in the fourth quarter, until the Bears found their shooting touch.

Up to then, the most points Rifle scored in a quarter was seven, and it had converted just 7-of-25 field goal tries.

In the fourth period, Rifle turned the tables on Montrose.

The Bears had their best offensive output ” 11 points in the quarter ” while holding Montrose to four points.

“I looked up and it seemed like we were 8, 10, 12 points down,” Schmitz said. “Then we get it to four or five and we made some big plays.”

A rejuvenated Bear defense along with key field goals by Neffendorf and Renee Laudick, a Wagstrom three-point play and two Guettler free throws reduced Montrose’s lead to two with 1:54 left.

“Their defense was tough,” said Montrose coach John Mraule of the Bears. “They were giving us fits all night. We were starting our offense way too high; we didn’t get down where we wanted to.”

“It’s hard starting your offense from midcourt, and we struggled.”

And both teams’ defenses took control after Guettler’s free throws.

Each squad turned the ball back over to the other. And each had a shot at pulling away. That, somehow, wouldn’t be a proper way for a championship game to end.

After a wild scramble on an Indian miss, Rifle’s Krista Wagstrom had the ball with 3.2 seconds left. But she had 50 feet of basketball court in front of her.

The senior tried her best and flung the ball from just behind the midcourt line with all her might. It didn’t go in.

“It just so happened when the clock ran out we were two ahead,” said Mraule. “(The game) could have went either way. Rifle is a great team and we were fortunate to get it. I was happy the game ended when it did.”

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