Church’s hustle lifts Rifle to win
Chante Church never seems to slow down on the basketball court.
Hustle plays by the Rifle High School junior helped the Bears’ girls basketball team pull away from Steamboat Springs on Thursday for a 42-32 quarterfinal victory in the Class 4A Southwestern/Western Slope District basketball tournament at Central High School.
Church scored six of Rifle’s first eight points of the fourth quarter, pushing a 26-22 lead to 34-24.
The Bears play Delta at 3 p.m. today at Brownson Arena in the semifinals.
In today’s other semifinal, Montrose plays Glenwood Springs at 6 p.m. Glenwood ran past Durango 48-24 in Thursday’s first game at Central, with Kenzie Nelson-Buehler scoring 16 points.
Rifle’s defense made the difference, forcing the Sailors into several turnovers that kept the Bears in control.
“I really liked how we defended the last three quarters of the game,” Rifle coach Rick Schmitz said. “My gosh, they hit two or three 3s early and had it going their way, and we kind of buckled down.
“That’s our style. If we don’t buckle down and rebound and defend, we’re in trouble.”
Those two things led to the third key of the game: offense.
“It’s amazing when you defend how the ball finds a hole,” Schmitz said.
With their 5-foot-8 point guard, Jasmine Figueira, running the offense and finding Church (18 points) and Joey Kuheim (14 points) in the paint, Rifle rallied in the second quarter from a six-point deficit.
Rifle scored the first four points of the third quarter, but then went cold. Makaila Jetvig hit a 3 from the corner and a baseline layup for Steamboat to cut it to four, 26-22.
A 3-pointer from Church to open the fourth quarter, an offensive put-back by Kuheim and two steals by Church resulting in three points swung the momentum back to Rifle.
“I thought how we started the third quarter, we upped that lead from five to eight or nine,” Schmitz said. “I know they came back and cut it to four, but then once we got it back to seven or eight, we kept it there. I think that helped the kids’ confidence a little bit and let us hang in there.”