Good move: Led by Cordova, Rifle likes its chances in Class 3A
The Rifle High School girls basketball team stormed through the Class 4A Western Slope League last season.
The Bears finished 10-0 in league and advanced into the Sweet 16 of the 4A playoffs, eventually losing to Cheyenne Mountain 64-54.
Here’s the good news for Rifle, and the bad news for everyone else: the Bears return their leading scorer and rebounder (Cortney Cordova), their point guard (Makayla Wilkins) and are now in the 3A Western Slope League.
“We are excited and we think we can go far with it,” Rifle coach Stephanie Heald said.
Logistically, it was a good move for the Bears.
Rifle is now in a league with natural rivals Grand Valley and Coal Ridge, and have shortened travel time to places like Basalt, Aspen and Roaring Fork.
The Bears also pose a serious threat to the top 3A WSL teams — Olathe and Hotchkiss.
“We take it as a challenge because we’ve never seen these teams before,” Heald said. “Maybe we’ve played them once or twice, so it’s a whole new look for us and it’ll be a challenge to stay at that level and stay on top.”
One player who is going to make the Bears’ quest a lot easier is Cordova.
A four-year starter, Cordova was selected the 4A WSL player of the year last season, averaging 18 points per game.
At 5-foot-8, Cordova has the skills to play on the inside and on the perimeter, and is the motor behind the Bears’ full-court defensive press.
“She’s been one of our top players since her freshman year,” Heald said. “But coming from where she was last year, her maturity has come a really long way and that’s helped her game even more.”
In addition to Cordova, the Bears have Wilkins returning at point guard and post player Tresa Berner starting at forward.
The Bears did lose one starter from last season, forward Ciara Euler, who moved to Illinois, but have able replacements in sophomore Jasmine Figuiera and senior Haydn Holgate.
Heald said the players’ experience has them finally buying into her approach.
“Our big thing is to defend and rebound,” Heald said. “The last couple years we would preach defense, but some didn’t get it, but now they are bringing it and our defense is continuing to grow.”
The Bears (4-0) cruised through the Palisade Invitational last weekend, defeating Class 4A schools Moffat County, Palisade and Montezuma-Cortez all by more than 10 points.
After the break, the Bears begin their league schedule against Basalt and Coal Ridge and a nonleague game against Glenwood Springs.
“I’m excited to see what’s going to happen this year,” Heald said. “The big games are going to be there right when we get back.”