If Moffat County High School boys basketball coach Mike LeWarne were to give his varsity team a grade for its performances before Christmas break, the players would be happy to take their report cards home.
"All things considered, I'd give them close to an A," LeWarne said of his team's 4-2 start. "Our defense is definitely ahead of where we thought it would be."
A majority of that good grade is from the Bulldog's 46-43 overtime win against Evergreen.
"In my opinion, that was our best game so far," he said. "They gutted it out and showed some fight."
Beyond the Evergreen game, there is plenty of room for improvement from "close to an A" to an A+, according to LeWarne.
"We'd like to see more points off transition," he said. "Our shooting percentage is low, and with better shots it should go up."
The Bulldogs are shooting 37 percent from the land of two-pointers and 29 percent from beyond the arc. Their 42-36 loss to Steamboat Springs in the Western Slope League tournament championship highlighted the shooting and transition problems LeWarne would like to improve.
The Sailors had eight points off of the fast break to the Bulldogs' none.
The Bulldogs, who only scored two points in the first quarter, shot 30.2 percent from the field (25 percent from three, 34.8 from two).
Junior Derek Duran led the Bulldogs with an average of 11 points a game in the first six matchups but only scored five against the Sailors.
"I couldn't hit my shots and I got frustrated," he said about his effort against the Sailors.
"As a team, we're hitting shots, but just not the important ones we need sometimes."
Duran said the team has been focused on getting up and down the court quicker since the boys returned to practice Monday.
"We know that our big guys can get down the court faster than anybody in the league," he said. "We need to do it more."
The Sailors and Bulldogs will get to measure their improvement, or lack thereof, Saturday with a matchup in Steamboat.
"This game will have a big impact on the league standings and it's only the first game of league play," LeWarne said. "Steamboat is at the top of the league and they'll be on their floor so this is a big game for us."
After the tournament, Steamboat coach Kelly Meek said that his team didn't show a lot of what it was going to do during the season.
LeWarne said his team didn't hide much, but the Bulldogs' different style of play allowed for that.
"Steamboat's offense uses a lot of set plays that you can prepare for," he said.
"Our motion offense goes off of what the defense is doing, so we adjust as the season goes on."
For the second game of the Yampa Valley rivalry, LeWarne said that he's had his team working on how to defend the Sailors differently.
"We gave up too many offensive rebounds," he said.
The Sailors had nine rebounds after their own shots, compared with five for the Bulldogs.
Duran attributed the loss, especially the first quarter, to his team's attitude going into the game.
"We came in a little scared," he said. "That showed in the first quarter but we learned we can play with them."
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.