Down 27-17 at the halfway point in its matchup with rival Steamboat Springs, the Craig Middle School boys basketball "A" team was in a precarious position.
The Bulldogs had earned 10 wins on the season and were 5-1 in their division, clinching the No. 1 seed heading into its season-ending home tournament.
Head coach David Grabowski was faced with the halftime task of motivating his team to play up to the level that had gotten them this far.
Whatever means he used, the Bulldogs responded.
Trailing by 10 points, CMS outscored the Sailors by 12 in the second half, coming from behind to defeat their rival 42-40. CMS moved on to face visiting Meeker in the championship game, cruising past the Cowboys, 42-29, to claim the title.
"I didn't really say anything inspirational," Grabowski said. "I just told them we had to get back to playing our style of game. We were getting away from our offense and our inside game."
The Bulldogs dumped the ball into the post, feeding its pair of six-footers, Adam Foster and Bobby Kyle, who dominated inside.
Foster finished with 21 points during the two games, and Kyle had 20 in the Bulldogs' two victories.
"It's a great feeling to come back and win the way we did," Foster said. "We exploited their weaknesses. We accomplished our mission."
Kyle was ecstatic his team came out on top.
"It really means a lot to us to be crowned champions," he said. "Our post game has been strong all year. Foster and me did well all day. It's hard to stop us when we are playing well."
Guard Braeden Sullivan made a critical play in the Steamboat contest, poking the ball away from the Sailors point guard with three seconds left on the clock and Steamboat trailing by one. The Sailors recovered but were called for a backcourt violation turning the ball and ending the game.
"I was just thinking I've got to get the ball away from him," Sullivan said. "I put the pressure on him, and it worked. It feels awesome to win it all. I love basketball, and we finished on top."
The Bulldogs finished the year with a 12-2 record and won its last 10 games in a row.
"We lost our two games early," Grabowski said. "Once we started working it to our big guys, the bounces started going our way."
John Vandelinder can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or firstname.lastname@example.org