There's no question that the leading scorer for the Moffat County High School girls basketball team is senior Laurel Mortensen.
But while her scoring average is twice as high as any of her teammates, coach Craig Mortensen said there is much more to winning than his point guard having a good night.
"Laurel is going to get her points every night," he said. "It's when the other girls have a good game is when the team plays well."
Never was that more evident than this past weekend when the Bulldogs put their 28-game Western Slope Conference regular season winning streak on the line against Rifle on Friday and Glenwood Springs on Saturday.
In the Bulldogs' 54-41 win over Rifle, Mortensen contributed 23 points, while sophomore Brandie Telfer added 12, senior Kate Schafer added seven and freshman April Sanchez scored five.
Larger than the seven points that Schafer added, was her contribution as the defensive stopper assigned to the Bear's Ashley Gavito. Rifle's sharpshooter came in averaging 14 points in conference play and Schafer kept her out of double figures with nine points.
"Every game Kate is assigned to the best perimeter player that the other team has," coach Mortensen said. "While she gets frustrated if she doesn't hit shots, she knows that if she shuts the leading scorer to single digits, it is like adding 10 more points to her scoring."
Coming into the weekend, the Bulldogs were secured a tie for the Western Slope Conference regular season championship. The win against Rifle combined with a loss by Steamboat Springs Friday wrapped up the league title for the Bulldogs.
After winning the outright title, the Bulldogs traveled to Glenwood Springs for a game in the Demons' hostile and crowded gym.
The Bulldogs opened up a 19-12 lead in the first quarter but the Demons fought back to outscore the visitors 14-6 in the second quarter. Going into halftime, the Bulldogs trailed for the first time since January 4 and the only time in league play.
The Demons continued to control the third quarter and opened the lead to 41-35 by the quarter's end.
In the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs broke out of their slump with an all-around team effort.
Junior Ashlee Hafey hit a three-pointer when the Demons had pulled ahead by six, senior Jeni Jones pulled down three offensive rebounds and Sanchez came off the bench to provide some rebounds as well.
"We came out in the fourth quarter and played the way we need in order to go far in the playoffs this year," coach Mortensen said. "We had a full court press that caused a lot of turnovers and we hit our free throws."
While her teammates banged on the boards and forced turnovers, Laurel Mortensen scored 16 points in the quarter and the Bulldogs were eight of 11 from the free-throw line as they outscored the Demons 26-13 in the final eight minutes for the 61-54 win.
The win for the Bulldogs wrapped up a 12-0 conference record for consecutive seasons and the ladies in blue haven't lost a regular season conference game in 30 outings.
"I'll tell you the secret of our success in the conference," coach Mortensen said. "It's the fact that I get girls who are fundamentally sound because of the coaching below me in the high school and at the middle school.
"You can't win a horse race without a good horse and I've really been fortunate to have good, tough horses."
With a 16-3 record, the Bulldogs earned the top seed in the district tournament this week in Grand Junction. The winner of a pigtail game tonight between Delta and Battle Mountain will be the Bulldogs' opponents at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Mesa State College.
"We're the hunted in this tournament," coach Mortensen said. "But if we can play well and win, we may get a top-eight seed in the state bracket and have two home games for regionals.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.