Mesquite, Nev. Watching the game from the bench isn't something that Moffat County High School junior Anthony Loughran is used to.
After picking up his fourth foul with four minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Bulldogs' leading scorer was forced to watch the game from the pine during MoCo's opening game of the Virgin Valley Cactus Classic against Lincoln County, Nev.
"At least sitting on the bench I got to see things we need to work on," Loughran said. "I saw that we need to be more patient on offense. I also saw other guys step in and play well tonight with me sitting a lot in the second half."
The team, led by senior Pablo Loya's 26 points and six steals, pulled away from Lincoln County High School late in the fourth period for a 66-58 win.
"Foul trouble kept us from putting them away in the second half," said MCHS head coach Mike LeWarne. "We kept letting them back in the game but different guys stepped in at the end of the game when we needed them."
Loughran, who came in averaging 20 points per game, picked up his fifth and final foul a minute after retuning in the fourth quarter. Thirty seconds later, with 3:27 remaining, Lincoln County scored after a steal and cut the Bulldog lead to one, 51-50.
"They really had the momentum at that point in the game," LeWarne said. "We called a time out because we really needed a score and stop the momentum."
The timeout was timely as the Bulldog coaching staff called a set play for a lob to senior Joe Padon. The basket by Padon shifted the momentum and the Bulldogs scored seven more unanswered points to open up the lead to 60-50. Junior Cody Palmer scored four of his 10 points during that span.
"Cody stepped in with Ski (senior Brian Skowronski) hurt and made those two important baskets at the end of the game," LeWarne said. "He and Kelvin Grinolds were our unsung heroes tonight with Cody providing points and Kelvin setting some good picks to get guys open."
The visible hero for the Bulldogs was Loya with his 26 points. But the senior started the game 0-6 from the three-point line and the rest of the team was 1-6 at the beginning of the first quarter.
"We started out a little sluggish," LeWarne said. "But Pablo was getting open looks and we knew with his touch they would start to fall."
Loya hit two three-pointers in a row at the end of the first quarter and the Bulldogs took the lead after trailing 6-2 and never trailed again.
"You could tell it was our first game of the season," said Lincoln County coach Rick Phillips. "We would get back in the game and then make three or four mistakes in a row to give them the big lead again."
Other scoring for the Bulldogs came from Padon, nine, Loughran, eight, junior Kyle Eitel, six and freshman Kevin Loughran, seven.
The Bulldogs move on to play tournament hosts Virgin Valley, who defeated White Pines, 65-48, tonight at 6:15 p.m. Pacific time.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org