When it comes to the big picture of season standings, the Moffat County High School boys basketball game against Rangely didn't mean much because of the difference in the size of the school.
But the rematch of the Class 2A Panther's 61-52 win against the Class 4A Bulldogs in early January could be valuable down the road for both teams.
"We found out what we can do when we play with intensity," said Moffat County coach Mike LeWarne. "There was some talk at halftime about our lack of fight and they came out the second half determined."
That determination helped the Bulldogs come back from an 11-point deficit at halftime to beat the Panthers, 45-41.
"We lost our rhythm in the second half because of their press," said Rangely coach Mike Skelton. "I could have called time out several times when we were reeling but I wanted to give them a chance to regroup. Down the road we're going to have to learn to do that."
The Bulldogs came out in the second half in a full-court press. The press didn't immediately cause turnovers, but as Skelton said, it broke his team's rhythm it had established in a near-dominating first half.
"We played one of our best halves of basketball in the first," he said. "We didn't work on the press much this week because they didn't show it to us in the first game. That is my fault and a mistake I'll learn from."
The Bulldog defense held Rangely to six points in the third quarter while it created opportunities for 13 points on the other end -- three less than the whole first half.
The Panthers started to show frustration in the fourth quarter as a lack of rhythm turned into turnovers. The top-ranked team in Class 2A didn't score from 2:28 remaining in the third quarter until 3:43 was left in the fourth quarter. At that point Greg Skelton hit two free throws, but not before Moffat County put 12 points on the board and had taken a 39-33 lead. The Bulldogs' first lead came with 5:56 left in the fourth when senior Anthony Loughran hit two free throws to put his team up 35-33.
Loughran, who had been carrying the Bulldogs on offense, struggled from the field going 3-for-15 on the night for eight points. But his teammates picked him up. Sophomore Kevin Loughran led the team with 10 points and senior Cody Palmer continued his ascent to offensive-threat status with nine points. Sophomore Derek Duran and senior Georgie Raftopoulos pitched in six points each.
"This might be the first time we've won a game when Anthony didn't have a great night," LeWarne said. "It is a good sign that other guys can get it done because teams in the league are going to try to shut Anthony down every time out."
As LeWarne found positives in his team's win, Skelton was also relatively upbeat about his team's defeat.
"Moffat County is used to this intensity every night because they're in a more competitive league than us," he said. "This loss doesn't hurt us because as a smaller school they look past those losses in the seeding for districts. I would be happier with a win but I'm not too disappointed in a loss to a bigger school at their place."
For the Bulldogs the win was a prelude to the big picture when they travel to Steamboat Springs Friday. The Sailors are undefeated in the Western Slope Conference and defeated Rifle last weekend, a team the Bulldogs lost to 54-51 the next night.
"I really don't think a win or loss would have made a difference for us to prepare for the Steamboat game," LeWarne said. "It's good to get the win for our record but the focus wouldn't have been lost either way because we're focused on getting back to the top of the league. We need a win against our rivals to do that."
The Bulldogs and Sailors are scheduled to tip off the varsity game at 7 p.m.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org