Huskies boys win, 39-38
RIFLE — Apparently, it was a good holiday break for Battle Mountain boys basketball.
The Huskies had thudded their way into the winter vacation, having lost four of their last five, but all is cheery for Battle Mountain after a 39-38 4A Slope opening win at Rifle on Tuesday night.
“That’s been the message the past week — we’re starting league know. We might have bitten off more than we could chew in nonconference play, but now, we’re in our league,” Huskies coach Phil Tronsrue said. “We know the guys, the teams and the coaches and we can play with everyone every night. We needed to step our game up and dictate how the game is played. If we do that, we can be in a position to win.”
And speaking of winning that is the Huskies’ first win in Rifle since 2009, a 53-47 win, with Mitch Cooley pacing Battle Mountain with 15 points way back when. (Every red-blooded Huskies fan knew that, right?)
Battle Mountain trailed, 30-27, at the half when this one slowed to a crawl. Luis Mendoza canned a 3 for 32-30 lead in the third quarter. And then, the Huskies (4-4 overall and 1-0 in the Slope) sat on the ball for three minutes.
The reasoning was simple. Rifle packed in the paint with the correct idea that stopping the Huskies’ Devin Huffman is a good way to beat Battle Mountain. The Huskies countered by waiting for the Bears to come out. The Huskies weren’t going to try to force the ball into Huffman with the town of Rifle in the paint.
Coach Tronsrue stared at Rifle coach Roger Walters. Walters stared back and this continued for quite a while.
“We knew we were going to be in a grind-it-out-game,” Tronsrue said. “We couldn’t lose the ball game when we have the lead. We were going to sit back and hold for them to come and attack so we could hit the seams and attack the rim.”
While the third quarter did not have breakneck action, the Huskies were starting to take it to the Bears on the boards. Not only did Huffman do a good job on the glass, the Huskies got a team effort in that aspect of the game.
Miles Joersz to Huffman and a free throw from the latter gave the Huskies a 36-32 lead midway through the fourth.
After the Bears scored the next six, Huffman went 3-for-4 from the stripe in the final minute. Rifle had two shots during the last 15 ticks, but the Huskies escaped with a big win.
Huffman led the Huskies with 19 points, while Baker Gentry had nine.
Battle Mountain’s girls lost to the Bears, 46-32. Both sets of Huskies host Summit County on Thursday at 5:30 and 7 p.m.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.