It has to be the shoes.
The old Nike slogan fit for Moffat County High School senior Pablo Loya this weekend in his two-night basketball performance.
"They're just shoes," Loya said after he wore his old pair of shoes Saturday after a tough shooting night Friday with a new pair. "But I was sort of threatened by my teammates to switch back since we hadn't lost in the other shoes."
After going 4-15 from beyond the arch Friday night in a 48-46 loss to Rifle, Loya hit five three pointers in the first half Saturday to lead the Bulldogs to a 64-49 win over Glenwood Springs.
"I don't know about the shoe thing, but it shows that we're a better team when Pablo is on," said head coach Mike LeWarne. "As a team, I thought we bounced back well on Saturday after a tough loss."
In the Rifle game, the Bears had the lead for all but a short time in the third quarter. Poor shooting kept the Bulldogs from taking the lead from the Bears, as the team hit 17 of 51 shots in the game. With three minutes remaining and down by seven, the Bulldogs caught fire with a three pointer and a layup from Brian Skowronski followed by a Loya three pointer. With 35 seconds remaining, Skowrinski tied it up at 46 with his second three pointer in two minutes.
After a Rifle time out, the Bears' first shot missed but guard Jason Enewold grabbed the rebound and put it in for the 48-46 lead with 12.5 seconds left.
"Jason is a kid who has lifted a lot of weights and he just muscled his way to get the rebound and the basket," said Rifle coach Chris Lowther. "Getting the ball inside has been our bread and butter all year and it worked again for us."
The final attempt by Loya for the win fell short and Rifle clinched the nail-biter.
"We don't always react on the road like we should," LeWarne said. "Instead of looking to find better shots, we kept trying to hit the same ones we were missing. If we're going to win this conference we need get better shot selection on the road"
With a win Saturday against Steamboat Springs the Bears finished the first half of Western Slope Conference play undefeated at 6-0 with two two-point victories against Moffat County and Glenwood Springs.
After the first time through conference play, Glenwood is the surprise team, sitting in third with a big win Friday against Steamboat.
"The win against Steamboat was an emotional high for us," said Glenwood coach Roger Duroux. "We can't use that as an excuse for our loss tonight, but we just weren't up for a tough road game."
Loya's hot streak of five treys quickly pulled the Demons down from their high as well as took the visitors out of their normal man-to-man defense.
"We had to try some different stuff we normally don't do on defense to stop him and it really took us out of our game." Duroux said. "We couldn't find a rhythm."
In the second half, Glenwood opened up in a box-and-one defense to play man on Loya and zone with the other four defenders. Moffat County countered with its own strategy change.
"We made Pablo a screener and it opened it up for other guys," LeWarne said. "Pablo doesn't mind opening up scoring opportunities for other players because we've talked about unselfishness all year."
Cody Palmer, Anthony Loughran and Joe Padon benefited from the box and one as they combined to score all of the Bulldogs' 12 points in the quarter.
"When Pablo is covered, he has the confidence that anyone else on the court can step up," said Loughran, who was tied with Padon for second in scoring with 12 points. "Down the stretch, we'll all have to step in some night and none of us could get it done against the Rifle defense."
The home showdown against the Bears is a game the 'Dogs now have circled on their calendar but there are four games between now and then in a conference that has shown it's tough to win on the road. Just ask Steamboat, which has with three road losses.
"Everything is going to shake out in the second half," Duroux said. "Everybody has some tough road games, including Moffat coming to our place."
LeWarne agreed with the importance of road wins in the conference.
"If we're going to be on top at the end of the year, we have to find a way to adjust our game on the road," he said. "The more higher percentage shots we can take, the more wins we'll have."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.