Tuesday the Moffat County High School boys basketball team watched the first half of its 33-32 loss to Steamboat Springs. Mike LeWarne said his guys were grimacing at the review of their mistakes.
"We missed five or six shots that we should make about 75 percent of the time," he said. "We hope the second time around things will be different."
The team had good reason to cringe. The one-point loss is all that separates the Bulldogs from first place in the conference. If they'd won that game, they'd be tied with Steamboat Springs.
"We didn't shoot well against Steamboat or Rifle," said sophomore Derek Duran. "We've been shooting better, so hopefully the second time around it will be different."
Friday night will begin the second go-round for Western Slope League basketball with every team playing the other six once more in the span of two weeks. The Bulldogs, 4-2, sit in second behind undefeated Steamboat Springs. That means the bad news is that Moffat County needs Steamboat Springs to lose twice the second time around if they want a chance for the title.
"With Rifle losing to both Palisade and Delta it makes the parity in the league even closer," LeWarne said. "We can hope for a Steamboat loss but we need to focus on our own play first."
The Bulldogs will have three home games in five days starting Friday against Palisade. Moffat County is 11-2 at home the last two seasons and both players and coach believe the home-court advantage is in full effect.
"Home court is the biggest advantage we have," said senior Kelvin Grinolds. "Our fans are better than any in the league."
LeWarne said that at the league coaches' meeting last year the other coaches acknowledged the Moffat County crowd.
"They said we have the hardest place to play because of fans," he said. "You can see by our record we play well at home."
Moffat County's two losses the first time around came on the road against Steamboat and Rifle (54-51). LeWarne said the sixth-man factor makes his team better. With Rifle and Steamboat facing the "Doghouse" the second time around, the games instantly become closer.
"We're a different team by 10 points at home," he said. "It's a great atmosphere for us and tough for them."
Tuesday the Bulldogs face Steamboat and are hoping to set the attendance record of around 1,850 for a Bulldog basketball game, but first they have to play two hot teams in Palisade and Delta.
"They both beat Rifle, something we haven't done," Duran said. "We need to play better defense then we did against them the first time."
The first two times were close competitions against Palisade and Delta. The maroon Bulldogs let a lead go in the fourth quarter and the blue Bulldogs won 53-48. The next night Moffat County escaped Delta with a 61-59 win.
The rematch with Steamboat Springs could cause the Bulldogs to look ahead. But the team claims it is not looking past its weekend opponents to focus on the big rivalry.
"I think it helped show us we need to focus this weekend even more after Palisade and Delta both beat Rifle," Grinolds said.
Moffat County currently has a six-game losing streak in the regular season against Rifle, so any team that can beat the Bears gains instant credibility.
"Nothing will be easy the second time around," LeWarne said. "But the home court advantage in four of the six games could make it easier."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org