Hoops: Basalt no match for Rifle girls
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colo. – With a workman-like effort, the Rifle Bears girls basketball team took care of business in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs and now are just one win away from the Great 8.
With their dominating 66-22 victory over the Basalt Longhorns, the Bears showed the skill and athleticism that have them undefeated (23-0) and ranked No. 2 in the state.
The overmatched Longhorns hustled and fought with Rifle throughout but couldn’t get many shots to fall. They were no match for the Bears’ overall skill and suffocating defense.
Behind seniors Cortney Cordova and Racheal Keithley, Rifle methodically pummeled Basalt with an inside-outside game and suffocating full-court press to take a 38-8 lead at the half.
Cordova, the Bears’ offensive dynamo, finished with 23 points – including 13 in the opening half. Keithley finished with 13 and Ashley Rickstrew added 11.
It was the type of game Rifle coach Stephanie Heald was hoping for.
“We wanted to come out and take control of the game early and that’s what we did,” she said. “We were really focused tonight.”
Every time the Longhorns touched the ball, Rifle defenders swarmed like ants to a discarded popsicle stick. The demoralizing full-court press helped the Bears force 17 turnovers in the first half.
Offensively, the Bears were patient and unflinching in their dismantling of the Longhorns.
Keithley said patience is the key to Rifle’s game.
“That’s a big part of our team. We put so much pressure on the other team on defense that we know we need to stay really focused [on the offensive end of the floor],” the senior said.
Cordova nailed three 3-pointers in the game and was constantly looking for the open player. On back-to-back plays in the first quarter, the smooth-dribbling senior fed Keithley for inside buckets.
After a put-back basket by Jasmine Figueira, Cordova hit a slashing Rickstrew for another bucket, and that was followed by a steal and lay-up by Makayla Wilkins. Two free throws by Keithley finished the 11-2 run to push the Bears’ lead to 19-4 after 8 minutes.
The unselfish Bears moved the ball crisply, always looking for a teammate and a better shot.
Keithley had a steal and hit one free throw after she was fouled, then made a bounce pass to Tresa Berner in the paint for an easy lay-up.
The next time down the floor, it was Keithley who took a pass from Cordova, and she banked home a hook shot to put the Bears up
Basalt came out after halftime with a spirited effort, forcing four straight Rifle turnovers and getting a pair of buckets from senior Stephanie Alvarado, who led the Longhorns with six points.
After Cordova hit a pair of 3’s, order was restored. By the fourth quarter, Rifle had pulled its starters.
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