Bulldogs go down in season opener

Boys basketball team loses, 60-53

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With a new regime in place, the Moffat County High School boys basketball team is gearing up for a season full of firsts.

Unfortunately for first-year coach Steve Maneotis and his players, the initial item checked off on the team's list of firsts was a loss.

Moffat County faced off against host Grand Junction Central on Saturday, falling to the Warriors, 60-53, in the team's first game of the season.

"It was a great overall team effort," Maneotis said. "Every one of the players contributed. It was a great first game."

Turnovers plagued the Bulldogs - Moffat County had 29 - contributing to 24 points for Central.

Moffat County led 11-6 in the first quarter, before the Warriors (3-2 overall, 0-0 Southwestern League) applied its staple press defense to slow down the Bulldogs.

Central switched to its full-court pressure defense in the end of the first quarter, out-scoring Moffat County, 54-42, the rest of the game.

"Central went to the press and forced a lot of turnovers," Maneotis said. "We played well except when we handled the ball in the full-court."

Maneotis said the team worked on breaking the press this past week in practice after reviewing game film of Central, and that despite the effort, the Bulldogs fared better in practice than the game.

"We practiced the press in practice," he said. "But they run it better than we do. It was much different in a game-type situation."

Chayton Owens scored 15 points to lead the Bulldogs. Blake Najera, who joined the team last week after transferring from out of state, scored 12 points and senior Eli Buckner dropped in another eight.

Junior Mike Peters led the Moffat County attack with five assists, while senior Colton Conrad hauled in a team-leading 10 rebounds.

The Bulldogs held the Warriors to 27 percent shooting from the field while converting 43 percent of its shots, but turnovers ended up digging Moffat County into a hole from which it couldn't recover.

Despite the loss to the larger 5A school, Maneotis was encouraged by the play of his team.

The Bulldogs won six games last year, and the new coach said he already could see vast improvements by his squad this season.

"Our half-court sets looked really good," he said. "Every one of the players scored. We came off the floor knowing we had just been in a game we should have won."

Moffat County competes in the three-day Green River Tournament beginning Thursday in Wyoming.

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