Nike Cleverly, a Moffat County High School junior, puts up a shot during Tuesday night’s game against Steamboat Springs. Cleverly scored 4 points in the Bulldogs’ 43-29 win.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Nike Cleverly, a Moffat County High School junior, puts up a shot during Tuesday night’s game against Steamboat Springs. Cleverly scored 4 points in the Bulldogs’ 43-29 win.

MCHS girls basketball runs through playoff scenarios

Team can improve post-season odds with win Friday

Moffat County High School girls varsity basketball — 2009-2010

Record: 10-13, 8-5 WSL

With one game remaining, the Moffat County High School girls varsity basketball team still has a shot at the 4A state playoffs.

A win Friday at Eagle Valley High School, and the Bulldogs’ chances of continuing their decade-long run of playoff appearances would improve dramatically, coach Craig Mortensen said.

Although the Bulldogs are sitting at 8-5 in the Western Slope League — a mark good enough for third-place behind Glenwood and Steamboat Springs — defeating a resurgent Eagle Valley squad would almost certainly punch their playoff ticket.

But that might be a tall task, Mortensen said.

“They’re doing better,” he said about the Devils. “Eagle Valley just beat Delta and Palisade and almost beat Glenwood.”

The Devils (12-10 overall, 4-9 in the Western Slope League) have gone 3-0 in their last three games.

Part of that turnaround has been the return of talented guard Brenda Zapata, who has been sidelined most of the season with an injury.

Should Moffat County win, it almost assuredly would grab a spot in the state playoffs.

The state playoffs are run like the NCAA basketball tournament, Mortensen said, with 48 teams entering.

Teams are selected by the Colorado High School Activities Association to play in the tournament based upon factors such as record and strength of schedule.

“Historically, they have taken four or five teams from our division,” Mortensen said. “If they only take four, we hope that we are one of the teams.”

The top-seeded teams will have a bye Feb. 23 when the tournament begins.

Mortensen said should MCHS make it, the Bulldogs would have to travel to a school with a similar record, then play against a top-seeded team.

“We have a slim chance of hosting a game on Tuesday,” Mortensen said. “We just have to worry about getting in right now.”

Last year, Moffat County had a first-round bye.

“Then we played D’Evelyn out of Denver,” Mortensen said. “Then we went right to the number one team, Broomfield.”

This year, the Bulldogs have struggled with inconsistent play.

Luckily, the team has played well more often than not, as MCHS has notched a 10-12 overall record and an 8-5 mark in league play.

“Each year in high school ball, you have a new team,” Mortensen said. “This year, we didn’t have a lot experience coming back. The kids have progressed. We’ve had our ups and downs.

“We’ve had a lot of what-ifs, but all that matters is we’re here now, and we’re playing our best ball.”

That continued improvement includes a Tuesday victory against Steamboat Springs.

The progression could give the Bulldogs a chance to be playoff spoilers, Mortensen said.

“That’s what’s nice about basketball,” Mortensen said. “The state looks at the last 10 games of the season, and that’s one of the criteria for selection.”

Should the team make the state playoffs this season, it will help next year and beyond, Mortensen said.

“It will be difficult for us to advance way deep this year,” he said. “But we need playoff experience.”

Ben Bulkeley can be reached at 875-1795 or bbulkeley@craigdailypress.com.

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