Bears edge Pirates in battle of Western Slope League powers
OLATHE - Saturday’s game between the Rifle and Olathe High School girls basketball teams was a marquee matchup in the Class 3A Western Slope League.
The Pirates are defending WSL champions, and are coming off a trip to last season’s Final Four.
The Bears are new to the 3A league after dropping down from the 4A WSL, and have cruised in their first five league games by an average of 36 points per game.
Both teams entered the game 5-0 in the league.
The game lived up to expectations as the Bears (11-0, 6-0 WSL) pulled off a 44-43 victory.
“Every single coach I would talk to within the league said I can’t wait until you play Olathe,’ ” Rifle coach Stephanie Heald said. “So I was excited for this game, and I think it lived up to the hype.”
Olathe (9-3, 5-1 WSL) got its first lead of the fourth quarter with 55 seconds remaining on a Morgan Stansberry offensive rebound to go ahead 43-42.
On the Pirates’ ensuing possession, Cortney Cordova drove to the basket and was fouled by Emily Brummitt.
Cordova sunk both free throws to put the Bears up 44-43.
“I’m a pretty good free-throw shooter so I was confident shooting them,” Cordova said.
Cordova made her biggest play a few moments later.
Olathe’s first push to tie or take the lead came up short with Rifle’s Makayla Wilkins cradling the ball along the baseline before being called out of bounds.
With 10 seconds left, Olathe drew up a play for Brummitt, but couldn’t get her the ball. The Pirates were forced to pass the ball around the perimeter, and Cordova came up with a game-winning steal with three seconds left.
“(Cordova) is such a clutch player,” Heald said. “She knows where she needs to be at all times defensively.”
It was a challenge for both teams to find any separation during Saturday’s game.
Olathe held Rifle to one point during the final five minutes of the third quarter, when the Pirates turned a 33-28 deficit into a 35-34 lead.
“We were in the position we wanted to be,” Olathe coach Paul Althaus said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get it done. But, I think the game lived up to the billing, and both teams played tough.”
Cordova led the Bears with 16 points, and Wilkins added 11, including three first-half 3-pointers.
Stansberry led the Pirates with 15 points and Brummitt added 14.