Rifle girls earn title date with Olathe in 3A district tourney
All the Rifle girls basketball team needed was a chance.
After beating Grand Valley 48-45 on Friday night in the semifinals of the Class 3A Western Slope district tournament at Palisade High School, the Bears get another shot at Olathe.
The Pirates beat Rifle 36-33 in January and the Bears have been itching for some revenge.
“It’s exactly where we want to be,” coach Stephanie Heald said. “It’s where we were last year, too. We already lost to Olathe this year and to be back in the district championship, playing the way we’re playing, is great.”
Rifle (18-3, 11-2 Western Slope League) took an early 11-7 lead and never looked back.
Grand Valley, playing with only two seniors, took 19 3-pointers in the loss.
Ashlynn Speakman led Grand Valley (11-10) with 19 points, including two 3-pointer. Haley Johnston added 12 for the Cardinals.
“It’s great to play on a neutral court,” Heald said. “We played (with energy) the entire time. We need to make sure our ball-handlers are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and cutting up the middle.”
Joey Kuheim and Ashley Rickstrew combined for 22 points in the lane and used a height advantage to shoot 70 percent from the field and combine for 17 rebounds. Sophomore Chante Church led the Bears with 19 points.
Jordan Guray sealed the victory when she picked off a pass with two seconds left.
Rifle faces off with Olathe 4 p.m. today at Palisade High School in the district championship. Olathe is undefeated in conference play and is currently on an 18-game win streak.
“We need get out on them and contest as many shots as we can,” Guray said. “We need to be quick on our feet and be smart.”
Olathe 54, Gunnison 40: The Pirates (19-2) rolled into the district championship with an easy victory over Gunnison. Seniors Tawni Middleton and Kylie Tait led all scorers with 17 points apiece. Middleton had three 3-pointers and was 4 for 10 from the free-throw line. Tait had five jumpers and two threes for the Pirates.
Alyssa Nelson led Gunnison (7-14) with 15 points, including two 3s.
After jumping to an early 27-2 lead and holding Coal Ridge to single digits in the first half, Aspen used clean looks from deep and strong offensive rebounding to secure a spot in the 3A district championship with a 56-32 victory.
Aspen (17-4) held Coal Ridge scoreless for the first 3 minutes and never trailed.
An 11-0 lead behind perfect shooting, and 15 first-half offensive rebounds allowed Aspen to dominate.
“Jake Nugent was an animal on the boards,” Aspen coach Steve Ketchum said. “We took better care of the ball in the first half and if we do that again tomorrow, we’re going to be fine.”
Nugent led Aspen with 18 points, all from within the key. Austin Roark added 13 points, doing most of his damage from the outside.
Aspen was the North Division’s No. 1 seed, and despite never going to the free-throw line, shot 66 percent from the field in the first half before the starters sat down.
After Coal Ridge (9-12) scored its first two points, Aspen held them scoreless for the next nine minutes.
“Coal Ridge was a team that gave us fits during the regular season,” Ketchum said. “They’re a really good program. We squeaked one out with 60 seconds left at home because we were trailing the whole game. I just thought our defensive intensity was great (this game), especially in the first half.”
Aspen faces Roaring Fork in the district championship today at 6:30 at Palisade High School. Roaring Fork finished second to Aspen in the standings, and Aspen has already beaten Roaring Fork twice this season.