Members of the Craig Middle School seventh-grade championship team. Front row, from left, are Garrett Buckley, Greg James, CJ Chavez and Paul Laliberte. Back row, from left, are head coach Ken Olinger, Zach Booco, Ryan Domson, Josh Pritchard, Tyler Hildebrandt, Chris Goucher and assistant coach Drew Morris.

Courtesy Photo

Members of the Craig Middle School seventh-grade championship team. Front row, from left, are Garrett Buckley, Greg James, CJ Chavez and Paul Laliberte. Back row, from left, are head coach Ken Olinger, Zach Booco, Ryan Domson, Josh Pritchard, Tyler Hildebrandt, Chris Goucher and assistant coach Drew Morris.

Following the winning pattern

Craig Middle School basketball team claims conference championship

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— The Craig Middle School eighth-grade football team ran the table on its way to the league championship.

The seventh-grade football team followed suit, claiming its league title as well.

Basketball moved to the forefront, and the CMS eighth-grade team earned the league's top spot, so the mission for the seventh-grade basketball team was simple: follow the pattern.

Mission accomplished.

Craig Middle School's seventh-grade boys basketball team kept the domination of the league in town Saturday, rolling over Meeker, 50-7, and Steamboat Springs, 30-26, to claim the season-ending title.

"We came out flat in the championship game against Steamboat," head coach Ken Olinger said. "But these kids showed a lot of character and found a way to win."

CMS finished the season 16-1, 6-0 in conference play.

"Defense has been our strong point all season long," Olinger said. "We played a man-to-man style all year, and the team really learned where to be and when."

The Bulldogs lone slip-up on the season was an eight-point loss to Little Snake River Valley School midway through the season.

Olinger said the team displayed a pattern of trailing at the beginning of most games during the course of the season, except in its lone loss. In the rematch with LSRV, the team turned it around.

"They had circled the rematch on their schedules as a game to step it up a level," Olinger said. "They played their best game of the season against them the second time. It was very impressive to see them get up the way they did and plug along."

The Bulldogs defeated LSRV, 38-31, in its last regular season game, exacting some revenge as well as enabling the team to carry confidence into the season-ending tournament.

Olinger worked hard to schedule tough opponents in the effort to prepare his team for the playoffs.

It worked.

"We played a great schedule this year that really got the kids ready for tough competition," Olinger said. "We took a lot of risks splitting the team up and traveling the way we did, but it paid off. Take a look at our record."

The CMS full-court pressure defense led to many uncontested baskets, but Olinger mostly used a half-court set on offense.

"A lot of the teams we played used a zone defense against us," he said. "It helped teach us patience by having to move the ball around the perimeter to get a shot. The kids played quick but patient basketball this year. They did a great job."

Olinger couldn't isolate any one or two players as key contributors to the team's success, but he was quick to point to the entire team.

"Paul Laliberte led us in scoring, Josh Pritchard and Tyler Hildebrandt were a force inside while posting up, Garret Buckley stretched the opposing defenses out on the baseline and our two ball handlers, CJ Chavez and Greg James, distributed the ball really well. And, I can't forget to mention our guy Ryan Domson, who brought a ton of energy off the bench."

John Vandelinder can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or jvandelinder@craigdailypress.com

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