The Moffat County High School boys basketball team ran into a double whammy Saturday night in Golden.
The first: Senior post player Chayton Owens injured his right knee early in the second period and was lost for the game.
The second: Minus their leading scorer, Moffat County fell to the host Devils, 69-56, ending its season in the second round of the 4A high school state basketball championships.
"Nobody expected us to come in here and play the way we did, especially after losing Chayton," MCHS coach Steve Maneotis said. "We are going to hold our heads high and move forward."
Thomas Noble took over the scoring load for the Bulldogs, finishing with a game-high 19 points in the season-ending defeat.
Collin Jackson contributed 11 - all in the second half - while Mike Peters and Kelton Willbanks pitched in with eight points each.
"Noble stepped up, shot well and took the ball to the hole hard," Maneotis said. "Everybody just poured their guts out. Everybody that stepped in did a tremendous job of trying to fight back and doing the things we needed to do to knock this team off their game. It's hard to replace a guy like Chayton."
Rhett Nebeker scored a team-high 18 points for Golden in the win. Trevor Evanson finished with 13. Alex Miller and Ryan Stokes pitched in with 12 points apiece.
The victory was the 16th in the last 17 games for Golden (18-6 overall, 13-1 Jefferson County League) and sends the Devils to the Sweet 16 round of the playoffs.
The loss ended an impressive two-year run for Moffat County's current senior class.
Maneotis took over the program last year and guided the Bulldogs (16-9 overall, 11-3 Western Slope League) to back-to-back playoff appearances.
"I'm going to miss this senior group," Maneotis said. "They're special to me because they are the first kids in my program. As I told them in the locker room, this group put Moffat County basketball back on the map, and I can't thank them enough for doing that. They've got a lot to be proud of."
Maneotis said he thinks Owens tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
"He went up for a block, he came down and his knee popped," he said about the injury.
"He probably blew his ACL. It's hurting him pretty bad. He can't put any weight on it. He thought he was going to just tape it up and play. He's a true warrior. They took him to the training room, said it was a partial tear, and he came out ran up and down a little bit, tried to jump and probably tore it the rest of the way - and I had no intention of playing him the rest of the game. No game is more important than the health of his leg."
John Vandelinder can be reached at 875-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org