Grand Junction -- A first seed, the district tournament and Moffat County High School girls basketball team don't make a winning combination.
Ever since the district tournament changed formats three years ago from single elimination with four-teams to double elimination with eight teams the Bulldogs have been upset as the top seed each time. This year the upset was a 53-41 loss in the second round to Steamboat Springs.
"It's the Moffat County curse or something," said Laurel Mortensen. "We've choked in districts all three years they've had it this way."
While the first loss to Steamboat for the seniors since seventh grade stung, the weekend wasn't all bad for the blue and white as they recovered to defeat Rifle 54-39 on Saturday for third place.
"We really didn't want to settle for anything less than third," said senior Jeni Jones. "So we came out and upped the level of play against Rifle because we didn't against Steamboat."
The Bulldogs held the Bears to 13 points in the first half and went into the break with a 23-13 lead.
By taking control in the first half the Bulldogs regained their confidence and the smiles that they were without in the fourth quarter of the Steamboat game.
"I had a goal for the season to always have a smile on my face in the games," said Laurel Mortensen, who led the Bulldogs with 20 points against Rifle after being held to 11 against Steamboat. "But at the end of the Steamboat game I was so frustrated with myself there was no smile."
In the third quarter the Bears found the shooting touch and outdid their first-scoring with 15 points, narrowing the Bulldogs lead to seven points, 35-28.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Bulldogs as they pulled away, outscoring the Bears 19-11. Brandie Telfer finished the tournament with double figure scoring efforts in each game with 13 against Rifle. Kate Schafer held Rifle's leading scorer Ashley Gavito scoreless in the game and contributed eight points as well.
"Being in the third place game wasn't what we hoped for," said coach Craig Mortensen. "But we have to take what we get."
The loss to Steamboat stung even more on Sunday when the state brackets were released. The Moffat County girls were given a 24 seed and will travel to Longmont on Tuesday. The Trojans are the ninth seed in the tournament and share the record of 18-4 with the Bulldogs.
"When you lose a game in the Western Slope District this is what happened," said coach Mortensen. "This is a tough draw but we'll see what we can do."
According to Mortensen the scouting report he received on Longmont is that they have two Division 1 caliber post players.
"We've had to go on the road for the last two years," said Laurel Mortensen. "It makes it a little tougher, but state is still there for us."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com