Facing some of the best teams in Division 4A should be all the motivation the Moffat County High School boys varsity basketball team needs.
At 6 p.m. today, the team will get to see how it stacks up against one of Colorado’s toughest teams when it kicks off the Thornton tournament with a game against Pueblo East High School.
For his young team, coach Steve Maneotis said playing in such a hotly contested tournament like Thornton should be a good measuring stick for the season ahead.
“We’re excited,” he said. “It’s a Christmas tournament, and we get to get out and compete in Denver.”
Moffat County is coming off a 1-2 performance at the Dec. 10 to 12 Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out.
After losing, 81-28, to Rock Canyon, Moffat County’s offense kicked in against Green River and Summit last week.
In the Dec. 11 loss to Green River, the team scored a season-high 64 points in overtime, and the Dec. 12 win against Summit saw the Bulldogs score 48 points.
The Bulldogs will need their offense to click when facing the Pueblo East High School Eagles (4-0).
“Pueblo East, our first game — they’re a top-10 team in the state,” Maneotis said. “They have a great guard returning from last year. He’s averaging 17 points a game, and they are big.”
Pueblo East started the season with a Dec. 10 57 to 56 victory against Widefield High School.
The Eagles flew past Falcon Dec. 11, winning 67-52, then topped Valor Christian, 73-55, and Woodland Park, 83-44.
“Last year, we played them tight for three quarters, and then in the fourth quarter we were outscored by 12,” Maneotis said. “We had a great game going with them, so I’m excited to see how we respond this year.”
For the first game, the team will be without second-leading scorer Dylon Camilletti.
Camilletti, who is averaging 10.8 points per game, is recovering from an injury.
“We’re losing one of our key players out of the gate, but we’ll see who steps up,” Maneotis said. “That’s one of the fun things about high school basketball — seeing who it is that steps up and responds.”
After Pueblo East, Moffat County again will have a strong opponent in Littleton High School.
The Lions (3-3) have wins against Conifer, 52-49, Fruita Monument, 35-28, and Washington, 51-45.
Littleton’s losses have come at the hands of Doherty High School, 66-54, Mitchell, 64-53, and Ralston Valley, 64-27.
“Last year, Littleton beat us by three,” Maneotis said. “They were just a big, slow-it-down, in-your-face team last year. Their point guard was six-three, and they just went up from there.”
After Littleton, Moffat County will play Denver West High School.
The Cowboys (2-4) have defeated Jefferson, 58-48, and Adams City, 70-48, and fell to Alameda, 37-35, Denver North, 58-56, Jefferson, 44-41, and Silver Creek, 72-27.
The last game of the tournament will pit Moffat County against Mesa Ridge High School (1-3).
The Grizzlies won their season opener, 64-60, against Centennial, but have dropped three straight games against Canon City, 67-45, Coronado, 62-55, and Pueblo West, 75-56.
Moffat County, which has a 2-2 record, has averaged 44.3 points per game this season, while allowing an average of 52.
Senior Jordan Wilson leads the Bulldogs in scoring with 11.5 points per game.
Senior Brian Ivy is third on the team with 8 points per game, Zach Raftopoulos and Dustin Carlson have averaged 4.5 and Pablo Salcido has scored four points per game.
Maneotis said the Bulldogs have focused their offense to the plays they run especially well.
“This week, we put a few wrinkles in,” he said. “As a coach, I’m trying to find an offense that fits their personality. We need to execute — we looked a little bit lost in what we did in Steamboat.”
This weekend also will feature some new faces playing for Moffat County.
Last weekend in Steamboat Springs, the team played shorthanded because several players were competing in the Meeker tournament.
Players such as Andy Browning, Colby Haddan, Braeden Sullivan, Angelo Raftopoulos and Paul Laliberte all will travel with the varsity team.
“I thought the young guys did well in representing our school in Meeker,” Maneotis said. “They wouldn’t be going (to Thornton) if I didn’t think they were ready. They will compete at the next level and get game experience that they need to grow.”