Titans split with Bears in nonconference showdown
Behind a superb defensive performance and a breakout game from sophomore guards Aaron Arreola and Jan Hernandez, as well as junior guard Brandon Herrera, the Coal Ridge Titans (3-1) boys basketball team rolled to a 50-38 win Tuesday over the visiting Rifle Bears (4-2) at Coal Ridge High School.
Rifle senior forward Jacob Boone finished with a game-high 28 points, but the Bears got just 10 points from players outside of Boone as the Titans put the clamps on Rifle defensively, leading to the 12-point win on a night where the backcourt really stepped up at both ends of the floor for Head Coach Paul Harvey and the Titans.
“It was a very impressive defensive performance,” Harvey said. “We have a swarm mentality, and we want to make the opposing team work for 94 feet every night. We know we can’t match up with Boone one-on-one, so we had to use a bunch of guards tonight and bite at his ankles, get hands in passing lanes and really pressure their guards.”
The swarm mentality worked early and often for the Titans as Coal Ridge trailed just twice in the game before taking the lead for good midway through the first quarter.
To start the game, Rifle’s offense seemed to click early against the Titans man-to-man defense as sophomore forward Carter Sturgeon knocked down a midrange jumper before Boone poured in two quick buckets to make it 6-0 Rifle.
The Titans would answer quickly, though, as Herrera and senior guard Eziel Ruiz canned three-pointers, tying the game at 6-all. From there, Boone would hit one free throw to give Rifle a quick 7-6 lead before a driving layup from Herrera and a layup from junior center Dylan Allen gave the Titans a 10-7 lead after one quarter of play.
In the second quarter Boone would score all 11 points for the Bears in a variety of ways, but as the 6’6” forward went off for Rifle, the diminutive backcourt for Coal Ridge simply couldn’t miss as Hernandez poured in eight quick points on two three-pointers and a layup, while Arreola added two free throws and a three-pointer before Ruiz added to the scoring with a layup and two free throws of his own.
Senior forward Hunter Gerber would cap off the 19-point quarter for the Titans with a steal and a layup to send Coal Ridge into the half with a 29-18 lead over the Bears following the explosive second quarter.
“We have some pickup basketball elements to our offense, but we have some concepts about how to reverse the ball and things like that,” Harvey said. “We know that if one of our guards isn’t hitting, that other guys can really step up. Not all of them are going to be off at the same time, so we try to spread the ball and get open shots offensively. That’s kind of our luxury offensively that we can spread them out and hope someone can knock down some shots.”
With Coal Ridge firing on all cylinders offensively, Rifle looked for someone other than Boone to step up in the second half. Unfortunately for the Bears, Boone had to do some heavy lifting in the third quarter, scoring 10 of the team’s 12 points as the Bears fell behind 42-30 after three quarters of play.
“Jake’s been really good for us to start the year,” Rifle Head Coach Roger Walters said. “We have to get him some help. It’ll come, but we really need to get guys to step up around him. He’s a really talented offensive kid. Everybody doubles him, so when teams do that we have to have other kids come to play and start knocking down some shots. It just didn’t happen tonight.”
As Boone stayed hot in the third quarter, so too did Herrera and Arreola for the Titans as the backcourt duo knocked down a three-pointer each, while Gerber got going offensively with two driving layups in traffic.
In the fourth quarter, Herrera hit another three-pointer for the Titans, while Gerber, Arreola and Ruiz each knocked down free throws to put the game out of reach.
“We didn’t compete as hard as I thought we should,” Walters said. “Competing is not about winning, it’s about wanting to work hard and do the little things in the game. It’s all about the hustle stuff, like loose balls and rebounds — things like that. They outworked us. I just told our boys that it doesn’t take talent to work, and we need to be better at it.”
For Coal Ridge, Arreola scored a team-high 12 points, while Herrera and Hernandez added 11 and 10 points, respectively. Gerber chipped in with eight points and played some tremendous defense for the Titans, while Ruiz added eight points of his own.
For the Bears, Sturgeon added six points, while sophomore forward Joel Lopez and junior guard Jacob Seeman added two points each.
The Titans will travel to Palisade Thursday to take on Pagosa Springs for the start of the Palisade Tournament, while Rifle will host Evergreen Friday evening.
RIFLE 47, COAL RIDGE 23
Rifle senior forward Samantha Hinkle put together her best game of the year for the Lady Bears, pouring in a game-high 21 points to lead Rifle (3-2) to a 47-23 win over the Coal Ridge Titans (0-4) Tuesday at Coal Ridge High School in New Castle.
Right from the opening tip Hinkle was locked in, scoring the opening bucket for the Bears, which jump-started Rifle to a 9-0 run in which she scored four total points.
Along with Hinkle, junior forward Jessie Pressler knocked down a three-pointer to open the game, while junior guard Elly Walters knocked down two free throws to put the Bears in front 9-0 early on the Titans.
Coal Ridge would score its only two points of the opening quarter on two free throws from junior guard Sam Dunn.
In the second quarter, senior forward Kaitlyn Harlow knocked down a midrange jumper for the Titans before senior forward Alexys Holder got a driving layup to fall, pulling the Titans to within 10-6 of the Bears.
Rifle junior forward Peyton Caldwell would hit one of two free throws before Holder would hit a corner three-pointer to pull Coal Ridge to within 11-9, but Hinkle then took over from there.
The senior forward hit a layup and converted two free throws to make it 15-9 Rifle before Holder would hit another three-pointer. Hinkle would then answer with two more free throws before Pressler knocked down a three-pointer to send the two teams into the half with the Bears holding a 20-12 lead.
Coming out for the second half, Hinkle was a force to be reckoned with, scoring 11 of Rifle’s 20 points in the quarter. Hinkle stepped out from beyond the arc and hit a three-pointer before converting two straight three-point plays in the paint, allowing Rifle to pull away from Coal Ridge.
Harlow would add five points in the quarter for the Titans, but the presence of Hinkle and late outside shooting from Walters was too much for the Titans to overcome.
In the final quarter, the two teams combined for just 10 points, allowing the Bears to hold on for a 47-23 win.
In the win, Hinkle led the Bears with 21 points, while Pressler added nine points on three three-pointers. Walters chipped in with seven points.
For Coal Ridge, Holder led the way with eight points, while Harlow added seven points.
The Bears will host Evergreen Friday evening, while Coal Ridge will travel to Basalt Thursday evening.
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Former Rifle Bears standout turned starting running back for Western Colorado University Ty Leyba remembers it like it was yesterday.