As the Moffat County High School girls basketball team hopped back on the hardwood for the first time in two weeks, the only thing fresh was the new coat of paint that had been applied in the gym over Christmas break.
"It's always a struggle to get back in the rhythm after the break, especially at 10 a.m.," said coach Craig Mortensen. "They've been doing everything at a leisurely pace for two weeks and then right away they have to get back to game speed."
The girls team won its final four games after opening up with two losses before the time off. The team has two days to shake off the break and get back in the groove for a game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against a talented Grand Junction Central team.
"Grand Junction is a good team and possibly one of the best teams we'll play this year," Mortensen said. "They return some key starters from a team that had some good shooters last year."
The Bulldogs defeated the Warriors, 52-50, last season in Grand Junction. The Warriors went on to qualify for the 5A state playoffs and finished the season with an 18-4 record.
Central comes in with more losses this year than they had all of last year -- five. But Mortensen believes the 2-5 record is deceiving.
"They got beat up in the beginning of the season, but it was against some good Denver-area schools," he said.
Central brings a balanced offense with five players who have scored in double digits in at least one of the team's games.
As for the Bulldogs, the focus remains the same as it has been all year, keep playing good defense and work on spreading out the scoring load.
MCHS has held opponents to 33.2 points per game in its first six contests, an improvement from 45 ppg through the first six games last year. Although he said it is hard to compare one year to the next, Mortensen was encouraged about his team's improvements.
"Watching tape, we can narrow the mistakes down to one or two things for each player," he said. "It's just a matter of working on the individual fundamentals and I think we'll be prepared for league play."
The Grand Junction game will be the final contest before league play starts for the Bulldogs.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.