Vail Valley preps: Rifle hoops runs past Battle Mountain
RIFLE – It’s a good thing free-throw competitions are a big part of practice for Rifle’s boys basketball team.
Shooting at a 25-for-37 clip from the charity stripe – including a 15-for-22 run at the line in the fourth quarter – the Bears outgunned visiting Battle Mountain on Saturday, 84-72.
“Free-throw shooting is something we’ve been trying to emphasize,” Rifle head coach Chris Lowther said. “In practice, we’ve been trying to put them in a frame of mind of the games the best we can. It’s kind of hard to do, but they’re improving. … We try to do a competitive free-throw drill every day. And, like all coaches, we do the make your free throws or you have to run type stuff.”
Running is what both the Huskies and Bears did plenty of on Saturday.
Battle Mountain, which has carved out an identity as an up-tempo team this season, came out firing to start the game. Parker Lathrop accounted for every single point of a 10-0 run to open the game.
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The lead didn’t last long, though, as the Bears caught fire toward the end of the first quarter.
After falling behind 19-10 with 2 minutes, 5 seconds left, Rifle went on to rattle off the game’s next 22 – yes, 22 – points. Battle Mountain went 4:06 without scoring a basket.
After converting high-percentage shots at the outset, the Huskies began settling for long jumpers.
“We pushed the ball for about the first five minutes of the first quarter and then we started bringing it back out,” first-year Battle Mountain head coach Tom Padilla said. “With a team like (Rifle), we have to get easy buckets. That’s what got us the lead. Then we went away from it.”
Easy buckets were there for the Bears.
Jeo Mendez came off the bench to drain three 3-pointers during the outburst. His biggest triple came with time expiring on the first quarter. The buzzer-beater put Rifle up 23-19, coaxed a celebratory fist pump out of Lowther and brought the Bears’ bench to its feet.
By the time the 22-0 run was over, Rifle led 32-19 with 5:59 to go in the second quarter.
Though the Huskies hovered within striking distance the rest of the way, Lowther’s Bears were able to put the game away at the line in the fourth quarter.
Rian Creech led Rifle (6-5 overall, 3-1 in the Slope) with 20 points and 19 rebounds, waging constant battle in the low post to achieve those stats. He was 12-for-18 at the free-throw line.
Lathrop led Battle Mountain (5-5, 1-3) with 22 points. Miguel Copas had 18 points and Robert Weiss 12.
In the end, a lack of defense cost the Huskies. Padilla knows the defense has to develop if his team is to enjoy success going forward.
“We’ve got to prepare for the rest of league by playing defense,” he said. “We can’t just be up-tempo and no defense. We’ve got to learn how to play half-court defense to be successful. That’s what we’re working at.”
The Huskies will look to polish that defensive attack Friday at home against Delta.
Rifle girls down Battle Mountain
Running and gunning in signature Rifle fashion, the Bears cruised to a 63-25 girls basketball win over Battle Mountain in Saturday’s opener.
With its pesky pressure defense creating 37 turnovers, Rifle stormed out to a 19-4 lead after a quarter and never let up.
“You know, they get after it on the defensive end,” Huskies head coach Andrew Schmid said of the Bears. “They take care of the ball and they’re all over the place on defense. We came out and we couldn’t stop ’em on our end.”
Adriana Morken led Battle Mountain (0-11, 0-4) with 12 points.