Second-half surge earns Rifle girls 60-56 win |

Second-half surge earns Rifle girls 60-56 win

Phil Sandoval

PALISADE – After a half of uninspired play against Palisade, the Rifle girls basketball team needed a spark.

During intermission an animated locker room talk by coach Rick Schmitz ignited the Bears.

Inspired or angered by the coach’s words, Rifle came out a different team in the second half.

Down by nine at the start of the third quarter, the Bears scored 11 of the period’s initial 13 points for a short-lived lead, then muscled their way to a 50-46 win.

“They were worried about missing shots and not rebounding,” Schmitz said of the team’s effort in the first half.

“I told them to get more active on the boards or it would not get any better.”

Ashley Gavito and Krista Wagstrom remedied that problem by pulling down 14 rebounds between them in the second half.

Gavito, who finished with 17 points, played a key role in Rifle’s third quarter comeback by scoring six points. Rifle gained the lead for the first time since the first quarter on Julie McWilliams’ fourth 3-pointer at the 5:02 mark.

The lead exchanged hands three times before Gavito hit a 13-foot jumper late in the period.

Then, after scoring 34 points between them in the third period, both teams focused on defense in the game’s remaining eight minutes.

Rifle held the Bulldogs to a team-low five points in the fourth. Susie Edwards hit on one of the two field goals Palisade had early in the quarter for their last lead.

The Bears took the lead for good on Wagstrom’s 10-footer on their next possession.

The junior forward scored six of her 16 points in the game during the fourth quarter. All after Edwards’ bucket.

Rifle’s lead never got beyond three points until the final minute when Neffendorf secured the win on two free throws after a Bulldog personal foul.

Despite the burden of returning to game-shape, the Bears had success in their first week back on the floor. Rifle won two of three scheduled games, and most importantly are 2-0 in the Western Slope League and 5-3 overall.

“I’m just glad to have this week behind us,” Schmitz said. “After having two weeks off, it takes a little time to get the rust off,” referring to the state-mandated holiday break.

The Bears return to action Tuesday night for a non-league affair at home with Class 5A Fruita Monument, then travel to Eagle-Vail for a WSL contest against Battle Mountain on Saturday.

Rifle 50, Palisade 46

Rifle 14 5 22 9 – 50

Palisade 18 10 12 6 – 46

Rifle – Kristen Neffendorf 0 3-4 3, Haley Hubbell 0 0-0 0, Nicole Erpstead 1 0-6 2, Julie McWilliams 4 0-0 12, Montanah Matthies 0 0-0 0, Renee Laudick 0 0-0 0, Ashley Gavito 8 1-7 17, Krista Wagstrom 8 0-1 16. Totals – 21 4-18 50.

Palisade – Ashley Tuttle 3 0-0 6, Jessica Sargent 0 0-0 0, Charisse Swetnam 2 1-2 6, Sammi Richards 4 2-7 10, Kelsey Harrington 1 4-6 6, Susie Edwards 4 0-0 8, Krysten Hayes 3 3-3 10. Totals – 17 10-18 46.

3-Pointers – R – McWilliams 4. P – Swetnam, Hayes. Fouled Out – None. Technicals – None.

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