Grand Junction -- The first game jitters lasted about a minute for the Moffat County High School girls basketball team in the district tournament opener Thursday night.
By the time 60 seconds had ticked off the clock, the Bulldogs had opened up a 10-1 lead and were cruising toward a first-round victory over Battle Mountain.
"I don't think too many of us were nervous before the game," said Brandie Telfer. "This was kind of a warm up for us."
The Bulldogs defeated the Huskies twice this season prior to Thursday by the scores of 78-27 and 59-27. They won the third game in similar fashion, 72-24.
"We went into the game wanting to play as if it were a state playoff game," coach Craig Mortensen. "That is what we emphasized and that is what they did."
In the first half, Laurel Mortensen and Telfer outscored the Huskies by themselves with 17 and 11 points, respectively to Battle Mountain's seven.
With most of the Bulldog starters on the bench in the third quarter, the Huskies outscored MCHS, 10-8, to pull within 25 points, 44-19.
Then, a 28-point fourth quarter by the Bulldogs made sure that the Huskies wouldn't come close.
"This was a good game to get next year's team some district experience," coach Mortensen said. "Additionally, everybody else gets a little rest."
Two athletes on "next year's team," Mari Katherine Raftopolous and Stephanie Brown contributed 10 and nine points, respectively, in the second half to keep the Bulldog's lead sizeable.
The win improved the Bulldogs' record to 17-3 on the season and assures them a spot in the regional tournament.
Moffat County moves on to face Steamboat Springs at 6:30 p.m. today at in Brownson Arena at Mesa State. The Sailors came onto the tournament as the fourth seed and they beat second-seeded Montezuma-Cortez, 56-43, in the opening round.
"Steamboat will be out to get us," Telfer said. "So we have to be ready to come out and play well."
The Sailors played the Bulldogs within seven points in their last meeting, which was the closest of any Western Slope Conference team this year.
"All season we've worked to improve every game," coach Mortensen said. "Now we've played 20 games and it's important that we keep finding ways to improve to get to the district final."
Neither a high temperature nor the Glenwood Springs defense could stop Moffat County High School's Anthony Loughran Thursday night as he helped the Bulldogs to a 52-39 win over the Demons in the first round of the district tournament.
"I had the worse flu ever," said the MCHS junior, who led all scoring with 21 points. "Once the game started I didn't feel too bad except for after we would run up and down a few times in a row."
Playing hurt or sick has been a trademark for the Bulldogs this year.
"Unless it's something major, we've had kids who want to play this year," coach Mike LeWarne said. "Anthony is just the latest to play sick or injured and Kevin Loughran and Cody Palmer were sick tonight, too."
Anthony Loughran has enjoyed playing against the Demons and their 2-3 zone in the last two games. Against the Demons, he had two of his three highest point totals for the season, including a season high 28 Saturday.
"The zone opens up the shots at the elbow for Anthony," LeWarne said. "Those are what we call the 'Tone layups' because he's almost automatic from there."
While the Bulldogs won by 13 points, the game was closer than the final score indicated. There were six lead changes in the game with the last one coming at 2:13 left in the third quarter.
In the previous two meetings between MCHS and Glenwood, which MCHS won, 64-49 and 57-55, the games were up and down and run and gun. On Thursday both teams were slowed in their offensive efforts.
"We went into the game with the goal of slowing down their attack," said Glenwood coach Roger Duroux. "It worked, but at the same time, they countered with a tough full-court press that took our offense out of its rhythm."
While the Bulldogs' full-court press may have disrupted the Demons' rhythm, it didn't cause any turnovers until the fourth quarter. With 1:45 remaining, in the game and the Bulldogs holding on to a 42-36 lead, Moffat County forced back-to-back-to-back steals and, before the Demons could gather themselves, they were down, 48-36.
"The thing with full-court pressure is that eventually you will get a turnover," LeWarne said. "Most of the time, the turnovers will come in bunches and that is what happened for us."
With the win, the Bulldogs are assured a spot in the regional tournament next week and it relieves the pressure LeWarne had put on himself and his team.
"I really wanted that game," he said. "There is a lot of pressure off of us now because our whole focus was to get to next week."
If Thursday night the Bulldogs had everything to lose, this afternoon they have nothing to lose as they go up against defending state champions Montezuma-Cortez at 4:45 p.m.
"Nothing gets easier from here on out for us but the pressure is on Cortez now," LeWarne said.
As for a specific game plan, the Bulldogs don't plan on changing much up.
"We have to keep doing what we've been doing, only against Cortez it has to be a lot better," LeWarne said. "Our kids will go into tomorrow's game pumped and ready. It will be a big challenge."
Last year, the Bulldogs lost to the Panthers in the first round by 17 points.
Cortez enters the game with a 17-3 record and a third-place ranking in Class 4A.