PALISADE -- For two and a half quarters the Moffat County High School Bulldogs couldn't figure out a way to score against Rifle. When they broke the code it was too late.
"We missed too many easy shots," coach Mike LeWarne said. "Whether it was the last shot of the game or a layup in the first minute, they all cost us."
Despite trailing by 15 points late in the third quarter, the Bulldogs fought back to have a chance for the winning shot in the final seconds. Anthony Loughran missed a turnaround jumper and the sixth-seeded Bears sealed the upset of the third seeded Bulldogs with two free throws, 43-40.
"This was pretty devastating," LeWarne said. "I'll give our kids credit, they never gave up."
The Bulldogs' run started late in the third quarter. The Bears led 33-18 with 2 minutes, 15 seconds left in the third quarter. At that point sophomore Derek Duran awoke from a shooting slumber to hit two 3-pointers and a layup to end the quarter with an 8-0 Moffat County run.
Moffat County continued its run in the fourth quarter and another 3 by Duran brought the Bulldogs within two, 33-31.
Rifle stopped its five-minute scoring drought when Jim Owens hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game to open the Bears' lead back up to 36-31.
The rest of the game was a back-and-fourth battle. The Bulldogs had a two-minute span from 5:35 to 3:10 where they had four free throws and five steals but were only able to score one point. With 40 seconds remaining, Kevin Loughran scored to bring the Bulldogs within one point 41-40. Rifle missed a free throw and with 16 seconds left the Bulldogs regained possession and called a time out.
The ball went into Loughran, he shot in between a double team and the Bulldogs' hope for a district title bounced off the rim with the ball.
"I really felt like in Craig we weren't ourselves," Rifle coach Chris Lowther said about his team's loss to Moffat two weeks ago. "This game we were a lot more aggressive and it worked in our favor."
Owens finished with a game high 21 points and six 3-pointers for the Bears.
"Jim is one of the guys we talked to about being more aggressive," Lowther said. "He couldn't miss tonight."
Beyond the arch Rifle couldn't miss, going 9-of-14 for 65 percent. From inside the arch they were 7-of-24 for 30 percent. The Bulldogs were 4-of-19 for 21 percent from 3-point land and 10-of-30 for 30 percent from the field.
Leading the scoring for Moffat County was Duran with 13 followed by the Loughran brothers, who had 11 each.
The Bears move on to play the winners of the Montezuma-Cortez, Glenwood Springs game and the Bulldogs get the loser. Moffat plays at 8:15 tonight in Palisade. To get to the post-season Moffat will need to win its next two games.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 970-824-7031 ext. 211 or email@example.com.