Rifle flusters Palisade: Bears’ defense too much for ‘Dogs to overcome

Palisade’s Dannette Vensel, 25, and Taylor Bradbury, 10, battle Friday with Rifle’s Haydn Holgate for a rebound in the Bears’ 68-27 win.

The Rifle High School girls basketball team hasn’t gotten the court time its wanted early in the season.

Friday night at the Palisade Sunrise Rotary Club Invitational, the Bears were playing in only their third game of the season against host Palisade.

With the Christmas Break looming, the Bears made sure to run every play in their offense during a 68-27 win over the Bulldogs.

“We wanted to run everything we could possible run,” Rifle coach Stephanie Heald said. “We didn’t want to let the girls let down so we kept them running tonight.”

The Bears (3-0) rolled out their full-court pressure defense and flustered the Bulldogs (3-5) from the start. Palisade’s defense was solid early, only allowing the Bears to jump to a 6-0 lead after the first four minutes. Rifle kept the pressure on and started to get some easy baskets from Cortney Cordova after Palisade turnovers.

“I was pleased with our defense, but we were having trouble getting the ball close to our basket,” Palisade coach Toni Gunther said. “We had some turnovers and we weren’t executing things we were talking about.”

Kendra Barnes scored the Bulldogs’ first points of the game to cut the deficit to 10-2, but the Bears closed out the final three minutes of the quarter on a 16-0 run to take a 26-2 lead.

The Bears continued to cruise in the second quarter, led by six points from Ashley Rickstrew, to push their lead to 42-6 at halftime.

“When you get down that much, our morale folds,” Gunther said. “I’m glad it’s December and we have time to figure it out.”

Gunther sat most of her starters for the second half, playing a line-up of Flannery Davis, Taylor Bradbury, Nicole Mattingley and Dannette Vensel along with starter Emily Crow for the remainder of the game. Vensel led the Bulldogs with seven points and Bradbury added six.

“They are all great kids, but sometimes it takes them watching from the bench,” Gunther said. “We tried someone new and it gave them an opportunity because I knew they were going to go in and work hard.”

Cordova led Rifle with 24 points, including a 3-pointer in the third quarter that stretched the Bears’ lead to 54-10.

“Our defense was solid,” Heald said. “We were tight the whole time.”

Rifle plays Montezuma-Cortez at 10 a.m. today, and Palisade is fighting for its first win of the tournament at 1 p.m. against Moffat County.

“We have to throw this one away,” Gunther said. “We are looking forward to (Saturday) and we certainly can’t hang our heads.”


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