After losing three straight games -- and starting slow in each of them -- the Moffat County Bulldogs raced to an early lead against Delta on Friday night and never looked back.
The team led 19-14 after the first quarter and widened its lead at every interval, finishing with a 66-36 victory against a much smaller Panthers squad that showed some scrappiness on the boards.
"I would say Moffat County is one of the better teams in the league this year," Delta coach Joe Mock said after the game. "They should be a contender."
The Bulldogs out-rebounded Delta, 33-25, but both teams had problems, at times, controlling the ball on offense. Mock had hoped that his team's quickness could compensate for the size disadvantage, but the Panthers turned the ball over 21 times and set up the Bulldogs for some easy transition buckets.
Moffat County wasn't much better in the turnover department. They lost the ball 18 times, but they held Delta to numerous one-shot trips down the floor.
Moffat County had 23 assists in the game to Delta's seven. The Bulldogs would have had more, but the team's big men failed to convert some layups underneath when the guards penetrated and dished inside.
"We're shooting a low percentage from a place where we should be shooting a high percentage," Moffat County coach Mike LeWarne said. Although his players were hitting the open man on some nice cuts to the basket, the coach wasn't convinced it was a sign that the team was starting to find its rhythm offensively.
"I see it as frustrating," LeWarne said of his team's inability to finish on scoring opportunities in the paint.
Still, LeWarne said he was impressed with the team's effort, and he was pleased his players didn't let their guards down when they opened an early lead.
"We set some goals before the game, and we strived to meet them," he said. "We didn't relax, and we tried to play quality ball all 32 minutes."
Starting point guard Derek Duran showed some flashes as a playmaker and found Chance Buckner and Evan Hertzog for some easy looks on the perimeter. Buckner led the team in scoring with 15 points on five 3-pointers. Hertzog added three 3s for nine points.
But 6-4 junior Jarrod Holmlund led the team in assists with five by kicking the ball out of the low post to open shooters. He finished with eight points.
The highlight of the game, outside of the stellar shooting of Buckner and Hertzog, was Kevin Loughran's rim-rattling follow on a missed layup. The ball appeared to be inside the cylinder, but Loughran was credited with a tap-in dunk.
Overall, the Bulldogs were 27-of-59 from the field for a shooting percentage of 41.5 percent. They held Delta to 32 percent shooting.
The win improved the Bulldogs' league mark to 1-1 and their overall rating to 5-4. Delta fell to 2-7 and 1-1 in the Western Slope League.
The win was a much-needed shot in the arm for the Bulldogs, who have lost their past three games to Steamboat (twice) and 5A Fruita Monument (in overtime).
"We had just played two good teams, and we've been playing well, but even when you play great against good teams, you can come up short," LeWarne said.
Next up for the Bulldogs is Palisade at 5:30 p.m. today in the Moffat County gymnasium.