Boulder The tears for the Moffat County girls basketball team lasted about 15 minutes. Then, for all but three Bulldogs, preparations for next year started.
"We're going to the final next year," said sophomore Markie Workman, who led all scorers with 25 points. "We know what it takes now, and that's what we'll work for this summer and next year."
The Moffat County girls basketball team set the goal a year ago after a loss in the round of 16 of the Class 4A Colorado Girls State Basketball tournament to come back and make it to the final four. That goal was reached but advanced no further after Regis-Jesuit beat the Bulldogs, 69-47, Thursday evening.
Workman spoke for the 10 players there who will return next year.
For the three who won't be back it was hard to be happy right after a career-ending loss, but they expressed a lot of pride about a 25-1 season.
"I'm so proud of our team," said senior Mari Katherine Raftopoulos, who along with Jessica Uecker and Cortney Grandbouche suited up for the last time in blue and white. "We didn't feel like we played to our potential last year, and although we didn't play that well tonight, we made it to the final four."
An early hole
It took 31 seconds for Regis to show why it was ranked No. 1 in Class 4A all year.
In that time the Raiders' all-state senior Katie Mihalco hit a 3-pointer and scored on a layup after a steal to go up 5-0. Regis jumped out to an 8-0 lead before Moffat came back to score eight of the next 11 points to come within three, 11-8.
"(Regis) established themselves right away," Moffat coach Craig Mortensen said. "Their tempo was tough for our girls to match."
The Bulldogs hung with Regis throughout the first quarter. With 1:04 left in the first, Raftopoulos hit two free throws to bring Moffat within three, 17-14. But Regis grabbed two steals for a layup and a 3-pointer at the buzzer to take a 22-14.
Foul trouble, turnovers and poor shooting cost Moffat in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs were 3-15 from the field in the quarter. Although the Bulldog defensive pressure kept Regis in check with 12 points, Moffat's fouls started to pile up.
Workman had to sit the final three minutes of the quarter with three fouls. Sophomore Angie Charchalis and Raftopoulos also had two fouls.
Regis scored 21 of its 34 points off of turnovers in the first half.
"We weren't used to that kind of pressure," Uecker said. "They came out physical and we weren't used to that much contact without fouls being called."
Moffat made only one basket from outside of five feet in the first 16 minutes.
"It just wasn't our shooting day," Uecker said. "We had good looks, but nothing dropped."
At the end of the half, Regis led, 34-20.
Second half the same
Mihalco started the second half the same way she started the first: with a steal and a hoop.
The Bulldogs were 1-5 from beyond the three-point line in the second half and finished the game 1-13. They gave up nine more points off of turnovers. Regis gradually built its lead to the final 22-point deficit.
"We ran into a very good team that looked like it had played against 5A teams all year," Mortensen said. "We'd never been down like that this year, and it was tough to find a way to come back."
Workman's 15 points among Regis' twin towers of 6-foot-2 Diana Rolniak and 6-foot-3 Aija Putnina was a second-half highlight for the Bulldogs.
"Their post players were as versatile as guards, and we weren't used to that," Workman said. "I thought I did all right, but next year, I need to be more like them."
The 25 points was a career high for the Moffat County sophomore. She finished 9-of-12 from the field and hit seven free throws. She also outscored University of Colorado signee Putnina by 17 points.
"The good competition made me better," she said. "I know though that I need to do more next year."
The Bulldogs finished the season with a school record 25 wins. There wasn't a dry eye as the girls walked off the court, but there wasn't a lot of disappointment, either.
"We deserved to be here," Raftopoulos said. "Nobody can take away our top-four finish."
Mortensen had only one regret.
"Maybe we should have set our goals higher," he said. "But we love these girls, and I'm very proud of them."
The seniors hoped their legacy would help next year's team go even further.
"I hope this year put our team at another level," Uecker said. "They know what it will take next year."
Raftopoulos wanted to see next year's group be as confident as their last opponent of the season.
"They have to believe they are among the best," she said. "You could tell that Regis was confident, and we might not have been that confident. The goal for our program has always been a state championship, and it should never go lower."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or firstname.lastname@example.org.