Kate Schafer, Jeni Jones, Amanda Tomlinson and Ashley Bishop know they aren't going to score 20 points every game, but the four Moffat County High School seniors are all right with that. The Bulldog's first seed in the district tournament and undefeated league season has a lot to do with the upperclassmen's acceptance of their specific roles on this year's team, which isn't always scoring points.
"Those girls have total acceptance of their roles on the team and where they fit," coach Craig Mortensen said. "They realize how vital they are in aspects other than scoring."
With five of the top six players from last year's state-qualifying team gone with graduation, expectations for this year's team were not high considering only Schafer and senior Laurel Mortensen were the only players returning with significant varsity playing time.
"While we didn't play any varsity time last year we were going against the best team in the conference every night in practice," Tomlinson said. "We might not have had game experience but we knew what it took to be a good team."
A continuing theme throughout the season for the Bulldogs has been getting the "little things" done right. Each of the four seniors is aware of what "little things" they are responsible for.
Schafer guards the opposing team's best perimeter player, Jones' focus is rebounds, particularly offensive boards, Tomlinson's job is to hit the open jump shots when people collapse on the drive, and Bishop looks to set stiff screens and hit the open looks as well.
"There has been no envy or jealousy on this team," coach Mortensen said. "They know Laurel is the scorer and while they need to score too, they know their job is to do whatever else they can."
The focus on Mortensen by other teams has opened things up for the other players at times as well.
"Other coaches read the headlines about Laurel and sometimes they don't realize there are four other players on the court," Tomlinson said.
"It's going to take balanced scoring for us to win districts," Schafer said. "We know that relies on us."
If the Bulldogs are able to fulfill their top seed in the tournament and win, it is probable that they will be seeded high enough in the regional to have two home games. Being in the position to win districts and qualify for two home regional games are things coach Mortensen would have never predicted for his team at the beginning of the season.
"They have already exceeded my expectations," he said. "Anything beyond this is icing on the cake, but I think if we play like we have we can get to the state tournament."
The players weren't thinking that far ahead just yet.
"We haven't talked about winning districts, but it's understood that is the goal," Schafer said. "We can't look past any teams because even last year's team lost in the district."
MCHS opens up tonight at 6:30 against Battle Mountain, a team they defeated 59-27 and 78-27 during the season.
"It's exciting to finally get on the court in the district tournament," Bishop said. "But we can't think about that, because if we get caught up in it we won't do our jobs. That could be a bad thing."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org