Playing in front of some of the greatest players Glenwood boys basketball has ever seen, the current group of Demon hoopers looked to make a statement.
For stretches of game action Friday night inside Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium, Glenwood’s present group of boys looked like a souped up version of the 1978-79 2A state championship team that was honored before the start of the night’s boys game. But Glenwood couldn’t quite put away the rival Rifle Bears on the night, falling behind early before holding off a furious Rifle rally late for a 61-53 win in 4A Western Slope League play.
“It meant a lot to be able to play in front of those guys tonight,” said Fred Heisel, Glenwood Springs’s head coach. Heisel was a third grader in 1978-79 and followed the Demons all over the place to watch them play. “Those guys made me want to be a basketball player, and they were what made basketball special for me. Of course, Coach [Bob] Chavez gave those guys that gift, but that group gave a lot of us kids in the area that gift. I hope our kids can give the up and coming players that gift in future years.”
Coming out of the gates following the emotional pregame ceremony, the Bears played the role of spoiler, racing out to a 13-4 lead, going on an 8-0 run on the back of three straight buckets by junior guard Trey Lujan. Two Glenwood free throws by senior guard Angel Garcia and a quick timeout by Heisel helped the Demons shake off the slow start at home, allowing them to claw their way back in the rivalry matchup.
“We just reminded the boys about what we wanted to do on both ends of the floor,” said Heisel regarding the early timeout. “It was a big game for us against a rival, and we just didn’t execute the gameplan early.”
A 3-pointer by senior guard Wyatt Ewer and a jumper from senior forward Luke Gair pulled the Demons to within three points after the first quarter of play.
Opening up the second quarter, Glenwood started to pressure full court against the young Bears, giving Rifle fits offensively, which in turn allowed the Demons to take control.
Ewer hit a 3-pointer to open the quarter tying the game at 14-14 befor a late 9-2 run in the quarter, highlighted by a corner 3-pointer from Garcia, gave the Demons a 32-23 lead at the half.
“What changed for us was Glenwood applying full court pressure, and us not being able to handle it,” said Kyle Daniell, Rifle’s head coach. “That’s what Glenwood does, and give them full credit: they’re really good at it. They have a bunch of crafty, great instinct guards, and we knew that. If we could have bypassed that, we could have gotten them into our game of playing halfcourt offense, slowing things down.”
Coming out of the locker room holding a 9-point lead, the Demons pushed that lead to 12 points in the second half as senior center Holden Kleager went to work in the paint, hitting a reverse layup driving baseline, while converting a tough layup through traffic for the 3-point play to pace the Glenwood offense.
Rifle didn’t go away though, battling all the way back to within 5 points in the fourth quarter, again riding the hot hand of Lujan. The junior hit a 3-pointer late in the third quarter and then converted a layup and two free throws to pull the Bears to within 5 points at 57-52.
“It speaks volumes about this group that they never quit, and they never feel out of any game,” said Daniell. “It’s a blessing to be part of this group and go on this journey with this group. They never hang their heads too long, and we felt we had a chance the whole time. I love seeing that out of this group.”
As Rifle rallied, the veteran Demons clamped down on any comeback hopes as senior guard Chano Gonzalez hit a layup in traffic, and junior guard Mitchell Burt hit a runner down the lane, closing out the Bears at home in the rivalry matchup.
“I think that it showed maturity and experience, just finding a way,” said Heisel. “It certainly wasn’t pretty, and wasn’t the way we wanted to do it in the fourth quarter. We hit enough free throws, grabbed enough rebounds, and recorded enough stops. It definitely gives us enough to work on moving forward.”
In the win, Gonzalez led Glenwood with 14 points, while Garcia added 12 points, and Ewer added 10 points. Kleager chipped in with 9 points. For Rifle, Lujan poured in a game-high 19 points, while senior Joel Lopez added 8 points.
Glenwood Springs 51, Rifle 24
The 4A leading 3-pointer shooter in the state of Colorado had a night to remember Friday inside Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium.
Glenwood senior guard Emily Worline seemingly couldn’t miss against the rival Rifle Bears, hitting five 3-pointers on eight attempts, pacing the Demons to the 26-point win at home in 4A Western Slope League action.
“I thought that she was super smart with shot selection,” said Rhonda Moser, Glenwood’s head coach. “She did a really good job for us. She really settled in and looked for a good shot and made the most of those opportunities.”
Despite Worline’s hot shooting night, the Demons came out sluggish in the first half against a strong Rifle defensive unit. Glenwood struggled to get good shots, which allowed the Bears to slow things down, forcing the Demons to play their style of game.
Late in the first quarter, Glenwood senior guard Ashley Barragnan hit a 3-pointer to push the Demon lead to 9-4, but Rifle’s April Quinones hit a layup near the end of the opening eight minutes, making it a 9-6 game after one quarter of play.
The second quarter saw the Demons jump out to a 13-6 lead as Barragnan scored four striaght points, but Rifle battled back on a putback by senior center Masi Smith, making it 19-13. Glenwood started to get organized offensively late in the quarter, allowing the Demons to pull away for a 9-point halftime lead as Worline hit her second 3-pointer of the game and junior guard Hadley Yellico split a pair of free throws, sending Glenwood into the half with a 25-16 lead.
Rifle couldn’t shake off the late second quarter run for the Demons as the Bears scored just three points in the third quarter, allowing the Demons to take a 32-19 lead into the final quarter of play.
“We knew exactly who was going to do what for Rifle, so we were frazzled in the first half and never really settled in until the second quarter,” said Moser. “We knew the girls were going to be hyped up because it’s a rivalry game, but we kept trying to tell them all week that it’s just another game and it’s no more important than any other game on our schedule. Once we settled down, we got into a rhythm and played our game. “
Smith tried to will the Bears back in the fourth quarter, snatching rebounds left and right before cashing in at the offensive end, hitting three of four free throws and a runner in transition. Her individual effort wasn’t enough against the deep Demons as Glenwood closed out the win with a layup from sophomore forward Graci Dietrich, and two free throws from freshman guard Maddie Moser.
In the win, Worline led the Demons with 17 points, while senior guard Ximena Gutierrez added 12 points. Barragnan joined her fellow seniors in double figures with 11 points of her own. For Rifle, Smith led the way with 10 points, while freshman Jamie Caron chipped in with 6 points, and Quinones added 5 points.