Devils beat Rifle; close in on league crown |

Devils beat Rifle; close in on league crown

Eagle Valley' sDawson Keller of Eagle Valley goes for a layup against Rifle on Tuesday in Gypsum. Despite playing with three fouls in the second half, Keller was clutch for the Devils in their 61-48 win over the Bears.
Chris Dillmann | |

GYPSUM — Call that a big gut-check. And, oh yeah, it was a pretty big step toward Eagle Valley’s first league title since 2012.

Playing without Jimmy Murphy (left-knee injury), who is done for the season, Devils boys basketball showed its depth and mettle in a 61-48 win over Rifle on Tuesday night in Gypsum.

“It was good. That’s exactly what we wanted to see,” Devils head coach Chris Walls said. “We had a couple of moments where we were adjusting to different lineups. We’ve had several different lineups throughout the season. We like to keep everyone fresh. It was good to have Jimmy on the sideline with us, giving us a boost.”

If any team can overcome the loss of a player like Murphy, who did his knee up at Steamboat Springs on Friday, it’s Eagle Valley. The Devils (14-6 overall and 7-2 in the Slope) have nine seniors, including Murphy, and been playing 10-deep all season.

The Devils got a lot of contributions from all over the roster. Garrett Martin, Carlos Quezada and Jake McGinty all had 3s in the first half. Dawson Keller, who leads the state in blocks, had a thunderous swat to end the first quarter. Matthew Sanchez also came off the bench to provide tremendous defensive energy in the second quarter.

Arturo Loera, who sat the second quarter with two fouls, helped ignite a 15-6 run in the third quarter. He dropped a 3 and then fed Jesus Loera for another bucket. Keller picked up his third foul early in third, but kept his wits about him, something that’s been a struggle at times this season.

Keller played well with three fouls, including key rebounds and a slick pass to Arturo Loera for another third-quarter 3.

Rifle pulled to with 49-46 with 2:32 left in regulation, but Keller had three huge offensive rebounds, which were accompanied by four successful free throws, helping ice the game.

With the win, Eagle Valley, with three league games to play, leads Glenwood Springs by one-and-a-half games — the Devils hold the tiebreaker over the Demons — and Rifle by two games.

Before Tuesday’s game, the gents honored their nine seniors — Murphy, Sam Erickson, Sanchez, Arturo Loera, Keller, Clayton Oleson, Martin, McGinty, and Jesus Loera.

Offense disappears in Devils’ loss

It’s The Zone of Vanishing Offense.

That’s where Amelia Earhart went down and presumably also the location of Area 51. The Zone does not discriminate by gender or school. And it got Eagle Valley girls basketball on Tuesday night down in Gypsum.

The Devils’ offense went all but silent for the final 9:43 of the first half against Rifle, as the visiting Bears outscored the hosts, 19-2, on their way to an 48-26 win. Eagle Valley (12-8, 5-4) scored just eight points in the middle two periods.

That’s not how Senior Night is meant to go, but the Devils did salute Ashlee Dubeau, Kylie Martin, Taylor Hermosillo, Alexis Gallegos and Ashley Amavisca.

If there is a silver lining to this one, just playing Rifle (16-3 and 8-1) should help the Devils in rating-percentage index. Eagle Valley entered the game ranked 40th, a drop because Eagle Valley played Steamboat Springs twice last week.

With an opponents’ winning percentage making up 50 percent of the ranking, playing the winless Sailors twice hurt the Devils. Theoretically, playing Rifle with its good record as well as Battle Mountain (12-6) next week should help the Devils in making the state 48.

“Hopefully, with heart and determination,” Devils coach Sam Bartlett said of how he wants his team to finish the regular season. “I think we can regroup and refocus. I think we can still find our stride before the season is over and make a playoff run.”

Both Eagle Valley teams are at Palisade on Thursday.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be eached at 970-748-2934, and @cfreud.

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