Rifle relies on defense to top Kennedy
RIFLE — A little inside, a little outside and a whole lot of defense.
It’s a tried-and-true formula that has worked for Rifle boys basketball coach Roger Walters throughout the season.
After Rifle’s 60-28 dismantling of Kennedy in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs Wednesday night, Walters said the Bears will need a repeat performance if they hope to upset fourth-seeded Mead (15-8).
“We’ll have to do more of the same,” he said. “Defensively we’ll have to be super-solid defense, control the glass, avoid turnovers and shoot the ball (well). If we shoot the ball well, we’re pretty tough.”
Like he always does, Walters took an analytical look at the statistics after the game. Although he wasn’t happy about the 9 of 21 shooting from the line, he was pleased with the 60 percent shooting from two-point range.
As usual, the inside game for No. 5 seeded Rifle, was mostly about Tanner Quick, and he was efficient on both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-6 senior scored six of his 11 points in the first half and had three demoralizing blocked shots.
With Rifle (18-4) leading 33-13 at the half, it was clear Kennedy (3-21) was completely overmatched by the Bears’ fundamentally sound offense and tenacious D.
The outside game in the first half was keyed by 3-pointers by Trenton Brown, who finished with 12 points, and Wyatt Robinson, who tallied 11 points.
Defensively, the Bears played their usual harassing, matchup-zone defense.
Tanner Rust started the game with a steal and a bucket, followed by two straight steals and layups by Clinton Farr.
A Quick bucket off an inbounds pass and a baseline drive by Brown gave the Bears a 14-5 lead.
In the second quarter Robinson’s 3-pointer pushed the lead to 28-13, and Quick added the final four points to push the lead to 20 at the half.
The second half was more of the same for the Bears with Rust starting the third quarter with a 16-foot jumper and Quick scoring on a putback. Rifle upped its lead to 42-20 after three quarters.
In the fourth quarter after a 3-pointer by Kennedy’s Christopher Avila cut the lead to 42-23, Robinson responded with a driving layup, followed by a Brown 3-pointer for a 47-23 Rifle lead with 6:20 remaining.
Quick said it was a good all-around game for the Bears.
“We just needed to play good defense and be smart on offense, and that’s what we did tonight,” he said.
The senior agrees with his coach, saying the Bears will need another strong game if they hope to advance against the Longmont team.
“We’re going to have to play like we did tonight because they are good. They got the bye for a reason,” he said.
The Bears will play at Mead on Friday. Game time remains to be set.