Steamboat Springs With 3 minutes, 11 seconds left in Friday's game against Steamboat Springs, the Rifle girls basketball team decided to make its free throws.
After shooting 1-for-14 from the line in the first half, the Bears made 9-of-12 down the stretch in a 44-37 win in Steamboat.
Rifle coach Jack Smith couldn't repeat his halftime speech, so he paraphrased.
"I told them a free throw is a free throw. Get into your routine," he said. "We were out of sync (Friday night). We went back to basics."
The Sailors held the lead for more than 18 minutes Friday compared to nine minutes for the Bears, but the final four were the most important for both teams.
"We totally gave that one away," Steamboat coach Ashley Berggren said.
The Sailors pulled ahead, 30-26, early in the fourth quarter off Brittany Rummel's second 3-pointer of the game. Steamboat senior Ann Barney fouled out on the next trip down the court, forcing Berggren to look to her bench in the game's final 6:33.
"Ann provides that consistency," Berggren said.
Rifle took the lead for good with 4:45 remaining on Megan McWilliams' basket. McWilliams, one of three sophomore starters, scored 15 points for the Bears. Kristin Guettler led all scorers with 17 points.
"Toward the tail end of the third, we started getting back to our game," Smith said. "We usually run the floor pretty well, pass pretty well and play pretty good defense."
After taking errant shots, forcing passes and giving up easy looks in the first half, Rifle increased its defensive pressure and made Steamboat defend hard in the half-court set in the second half.
Steamboat closed to within two points, at 46-44, with 1:54 remaining on a three-point play from junior post Erin Gleason, but the Sailors turned the ball over and the Bears made their free throws to seal the game.
Gleason led Steamboat with 10 points. Senior Tara King added nine inside. The Sailors' post players, who had a size advantage, played a big role in keeping Steamboat ahead for most of the game.
"I wanted to push it down low," Berggren said.
Rummel finished with six, and senior Missy Chotvacs had five.
The loss drops the Sailors to 4-10 overall and 2-4 in the league. Steamboat hosts Glenwood Springs at 6 p.m. today at Steamboat Springs High School.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org