David Pressgrove: County girls


"Forget about the size of their school, their fancy uniforms and remember what got us here. Focus on the fundamentals that we've gone over time and time again. ... I don't care what the scoreboard says at the end of this game, in my book, we're gonna be winners."

-- Coach Norman Dale from the movie "Hoosiers"

I chose a quote from the movie "Hoosiers" because as this week has come together, tonight's matchup of Moffat County and Regis-Jesuit in the Class 4A Colorado State Girls Basketball semifinal has reminded me of one of the greatest basketball stories told.

I see similarities from the movie and tonight mostly in how Moffat coach Craig Mortensen has prepared his players and realizing the country versus city mentality.

In the quote above, coach Dale tells his players to focus on the fundamentals. Coach Mortensen used a quote this week to remind his players to keep their game simple. As he said, "The scoreboard starts at 0-0."

A lot of the Class 4A hype has been about Regis this year. It's deserved because Regis has two D-1 signees and their coach, Carl Mattei, told me that he has six potential D-1 players on the bench. That's a lot of glitz and glamour on one basketball team. That's also a lot of ego.

Mattei gave me my second-favorite quote of the week when I asked him about the cohesiveness of his team.

"Your team in the country (yes he used 'country') have grown up playing together and they probably care a lot about each other and about the team," he said. "My team is from all over the Denver area, and we don't have that. I have to work with egos and making everyone happy."

The Moffat girls play summer ball and AAU ball together starting in fifth grade. The players who attend Regis, a school in its second year of varsity athletics, play on different club teams throughout Denver.

Regis is good, and most people expect a Regis-Mullen final. But I'm not going to focus on the Raiders' skills.

I've learned my lesson from writing about opposing teams.

I still blame myself a bit for the football team losing to Niwot two years ago. Before that game, I wrote a column about how good the Cougars were and how great the Bulldogs were going to have to play. In some way, I feel I helped Niwot intimidate the Bulldogs before either team stepped on the field.

Instead, I'm going to write about how the girls from the "country" make up a team this community should rally around.

It never occurred to me the significance of the names on the Bulldog roster until I was in Denver last year and I heard somebody ask, "Is Craig some huge Greek community?"

There are five girls with Greek names on the team: Angie Charchalis, Jorgiea Raftopoulos, Mari Katherine Raftopoulos, Cayla Maneotis and MacKenzie Maneotis. All five come from third-generation Greek families in Craig.

To me, there is some significance in those names because they speak of the heritage of Craig.

In comparison, Regis' most acclaimed player moved from Latvia two years ago to get exposure for American colleges.

This week, coach Mortensen and I were talking about how schools such as Regis and Mullen have the potential to recruit players. That's when he gave me my favorite quote of the week.

He said: "If that's what it takes to get a state championship. I don't want it. These girls are like surrogate daughters to me. I love living in Craig and I'm here because I want to be here and coach a group of girls that loves being here, too."

Sounds like Mortensen has been studying at the school of Norman Dale.

Tonight we'll see whether Mortensen surrogate daughters can continue a historic season.

If they don't I think most people reading this column will agree with the final part of Dale's quote: "I don't care what the scoreboard says at the end of this game, in my book, we're gonna be winners."

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