Boys survive Rifle's comeback

The Moffat County boys basketball team found a solution for the problem it has had with scoring droughts -- take an insurmountable lead so that when the drought comes, it will be all right.

The Bulldogs went into the fourth quarter with a 54-38 lead against Rifle on Saturday. The Bears made a game of it in the final quarter, getting within four points in the last minute, but the Bulldogs held off Rifle, 70-64.

"We shot horrible from the free-throw line (8 of 19) in the fourth quarter," Moffat coach Scott Parker said. "That was our shooting drought."

Rifle coach Chris Lowther said he was proud of the way his team fought back but was disappointed in the way it ended.

"We let (Derek) Duran drive baseline too much early on," he said. "At one point in the first quarter, we were down 16-4, and Duran had eight of them."

Duran, the leading scorer in the Western Slope League, finished the night with 32 points.

Junior Evan Hertzog was the only other Bulldog in double figures with 11 points.

Both teams struggled to keep control of the ball in the game. They combined for 35 turnovers. The Bears had 20 of those.

"We need to take care of the ball better," Lowther said. "We played hard, but we turned it over too much."

Parker said he challenged his guards to take some chances on defense.

"We came in with the plan to be aggressive on the ball and trust our teammates behind us," he said. "I thought we only had a couple of small breakdowns on defense."

The Moffat defense held Rifle to nine points in the first quarter on the way to a 16-9 lead.

In the final quarter, the Bears put up 26 points, led by sophomore Scott Rust's 10 points. Rust had a team-high 24 points in the game. Senior Matt Bugielski was the only other Bear in double-figures with 14 points.

Rust hit a two-pointer with 17 seconds left to bring the Bears within 66-62. But Moffat's Chance Buckner was left open underneath the basket on the other end. Buckner made his shot and was fouled. He completed the three-point play to ice the game for Moffat County.

"We need to work on late-game situations," Parker said. "But I liked the way we came out and played to win the game. Before, we would wait for something to happen."

The win improved the Bulldogs to 3-4 in the WSL and dropped Rifle to 2-5. Teams will restart their league rotations next week.

The Bulldogs have played on the road 11 of 15 games for the season. They have five home games in their final seven.

"It will be nice to return to home," Parker said. "I miss those days from when I was a player, and I think that support will help make us a better team."

Moffat County was 2-3 on the road and 1-1 at home in league play the first time through the rotation. With a 3-4 record the Bulldogs are in fifth in the WSL. Last year, five teams from the league made the postseason.

The Bulldogs didn't have second-leading scorer, senior Kevin Loughran, for five of those games because of a two-week suspension. He and sixth-man senior Cass Thompson will return for the remainder of the season.

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