Eli Buckner goes up for a shot Thursday morning in the Moffat County High School gym. Students from the boys basketball team are taking time from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. to participate in practices and scrimmages, while girls are meeting from 10 a.m. to noon in the gym during the winter vacation.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Eli Buckner goes up for a shot Thursday morning in the Moffat County High School gym. Students from the boys basketball team are taking time from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. to participate in practices and scrimmages, while girls are meeting from 10 a.m. to noon in the gym during the winter vacation.

For the love of the game

Voluntary basketball practice keeps players sharp, in shape

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— Outside of Moffat County High School, the parking lot is full of snow and void of the usual congestion of automobiles.

Students are on winter break, so the foot traffic in and out of the main entrance is nonexistent.

Travel further through that same lot and tucked back in the farthest corner is a handful of cars.

The gymnasium's back door isn't locked; it's cracked open just a bit to let in a cool breeze.

Inside the gym are members of the boys basketball team.

Laughter can be heard echoing throughout the vast expanse of space followed by boys yelling "shot," "get the board" and "push it" on Thursday morning.

The team is running up and down the court as if head coach Steve Maneotis was present, barking orders.

But, he's not.

This isn't a mandatory practice complete with coach, workout routine and pre-set drills.

It's voluntary.

So, why are these kids, who could be lounging in front of the television playing Xbox, like one player had mentioned, still sweating it out on the hardwood?

"We've got to stay in shape," junior Chayton Owens said while trying to catch his breath. "We are working on our shots and getting in the reps we need to stay on top of our game."

Junior point guard Mike Peters is running the floor, leading his team down the court. He takes a break after stealing an errant pass from the opposition and smoothly laying it into the basket.

"I'm here to work my butt off," he says. "I need to get a better looking shot and work on my skills at the point. I'm trying to work on our transition offense."

Junior Jordan Wilson said first-year coach Maneotis isn't shy when it comes to working his team hard, an attribute that Wilson says has rubbed off on his teammates.

"We all need to be here," he said. "Our hardest practice is supposed to be Jan. 2, and we need to be ready. If I don't keep in shape, I'll die at that practice."

The Bulldogs (1-7 overall) took a step in the right direction, picking up its first victory Saturday. The team came close the night before, eventually falling in overtime.

"We were so close Friday to winning, it made us mad," Owens said. "We knew we should have won, so when we came out the next day, we tried to make up for it."

As the boys file into their cars and pull out of the parking lot, they must drive around the incoming wave of cars.

It closely resembles a shift change at the power plant, but the incoming power is the girls basketball team.

They also are here to work on their games.

The girls are 7-2 so far this year, winning the games by nearly 30 points per contest.

The record is different than that of the boys, but the work ethic is the same.

"We are trying to stay in shape for when league play starts," senior Markie Workman says. "We are here to work on our shooting. We scrimmage against each other to try to get better. No matter how many wins we have, it doesn't matter. We know we can always improve."

The girls have a rich tradition already in place, so for them, it's not about wins and losses. It's about hard work.

"We work for every win we get," Angie Charchalis said. "We don't have to be here, but we are. We know what it takes to win, and putting in the hard work is part of that."

Both teams kick off league play Jan. 8, when rival Steamboat springs visits Moffat County.

The two teams have different approaches when looking ahead to their next opponent.

"I don't know much about Steamboat," Charchalis said. "We want to win every game regardless of who we play."

Peters has the defending Western Slope League champion Sailors firmly locked in his sights.

"I want Steamboat bad," he said. "We are going to have a huge upset here at home. We're going for the biggest upset in the state."

Senior Eli Buckner attempts to rationalize the upcoming game.

"We've worked hard this whole preseason," he said. "The wins will take care of themselves. If we continue to work hard, everything will fall into place."

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