Every time a Moffat County High School girls basketball player turned the ball over in Wednesday's practice, it meant one thing: running.
From baseline to baseline, the girls on the team that turned the ball over sprinted.
"We're putting an emphasis on ball possession," coach Craig Mortensen said. "We're turning the ball over too much. Against good teams in close games, turnovers will kick you in the rear end."
Good teams such as Western Slope foes Glenwood Springs and Rifle, who the Bulldogs face tonight and tomorrow, respectively.
MCHS, the Glenwood Demons and the Rifle Bears were the preseason favorites, and with Glenwood going 6-1, Rifle 3-3, and Moffat County 8-1 in non-league games, it's a prediction that "has proved out," Mortensen said. "And we've got those two right off the bat, so these may be our toughest league games. In fact, I expect them to be."
Tonight's 6 p.m. game against Glenwood is the Bulldogs' home-opener. Mortensen called the Demons "a nice solid team" that has good post play and a strong guard game.
"They have a girl who's a senior, (Sam) Ciani, who's been playing varsity ball since she was a freshman, and she is very physical," he said.
Ciani is averaging 14 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
Sharaya Selsor leads Glenwood in scoring at 18.9 points per game, while dishing out 4.5 assists. Katrina Selsor has exhibited a solid all-around game, averaging 10.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.6 assists.
Saturday, the Bulldogs travel to Rifle for a 4 p.m. contest. The Bears bring back several returners from last year's team, and post player Kristin Guettler presents a difficult match-up for the Bulldogs' man-to-man based defense.
"She's a little different," Mortensen said. "She plays inside and outside, and she'll shoot from the outside. ... It poses a little bit more of match-up problem for us when their post steps outside and Cayla (Maneotis), our 6-foot-5 girl, has to go outside and defend her.
"So, we have to make adjustments for that."
Bear guard Kendall Babler is another player Mortensen noted. Babler is averaging 18.7 points per game. Although she is shooting 26 percent inside the three-point line, she has been hitting 79 percent of her shots outside of the arc.
"Rifle is a little more versatile in their attack," Mortensen said. "They just have a nice solid team."
The same could be said for the Bulldogs, who have run through the non-league schedule with eight wins, while sporting five different starting lineups.
Seniors Ashleigh Mann and Cayla Maneotis, juniors Jorgiea Raftopoulos, Markie Workman and Angela Charchalis are expected to start Friday's game.
Bulldog statistical leaders include Charchalis, who is averaging 14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists, Workman at 14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and Maneotis, who is pouring in 7.7 points and pulling down 7.2 rebounds
"Cayla, Markie and Angie have been scoring more points for us, but everybody has been contributing," the coach said. "And if every player steps up and does a little bit extra, then that makes a great team effort. I would really rather not have one of those girls score 25 or so points. I would rather have them in the 12-15 range and the other girls in the 6 to 10 range."
The big key for this weekend -- and throughout the season, Mortensen said, will be effort.
"We feel that we have a deep enough bench that we can just bring people on," he said. "If somebody is not working hard, they must be tired and we'll bring somebody else in."