Craig Middle School basketball coach Steve Loveland has had a hot streak in his first season. And, he plans to keep the heat on all competing teams through the December district tournament.
The eighth-grade A team holds an undefeated record for the season, standing as the top team in the area at 10-0.
Loveland reminded his team of this fact as they got pumped up before their Thursday game against Steamboat Springs, the last home game of the season.
“Who’s gonna stay undefeated?” he asked.
The team responded with an enthusiastic answer.
“We are!” they shouted.
The chant proved true as the Bulldogs wiped the court with the Sailors, leading 25-4 at halftime. Steamboat found its stride in the second half, but Loveland’s boys did not let up, finishing the game 43-25.
Loveland attributed the win to his team’s aggressive defense.
“Joe Camilletti was one of our best defenders for the game,” he said. “I call him the retriever. I tell him, ‘Joe, I want that ball!’ and he goes and gets it for me.”
Camilletti was also the leading scorer for the game, with 11 points, followed by Tyler Davis and Miguel Cruz with nine and six points, respectively.
“It’s all about hustle,” Camilletti said. “We played as a team out there.”
The team did not slow down on Saturday as they beat traveled to Rangely, beating the Panthers, 41-16.
Camilletti and Cruz were the key defensive players in the weekend game, while Denton Taylor was the leader on offensive, netting 16 points.
“He pretty much won the game for us,” Loveland said. “He must’ve gotten about 20 rebounds.”
The eighth-grade B team did not fare as well against Steamboat and Rangely, losing 42-26 and 15-12, respectively.
“B team lost a lot of heart (on Thursday), but it’s still been a pretty good season,” Loveland said.
The B team’s record is 5-3. Loveland said he believes both teams will fare well at the district tournament in Rangely on Dec. 4.
“They know how to score but none of them came in knowing how to play defense. I’m a defensive coach, so that’s what I’ve been working on with them,” he said.
Camilletti said that the team has learned what to expect from each competing team, playing them for a second time. The A team’s season opener at Steamboat was much more of a nail-biter.
“It was better for us this time against Steamboat. The last time we played them, it went into overtime,” he said.
The seventh-grade teams also have seen an upturn in their season. After a rough beginning, the A and B teams have added wins to their records, now standing at 4-6 and 4-4, respectively.
While the B team lost 29-20 in Thursday’s game, the A team won, 38-29.
“I think that was our best game of the season,” coach Drew Morris said. “They played really well offensively and defensively.”
Both seventh-grade teams won against Rangely, A team, 42-10, and B team, 14-6.
“They’re much more solid now, and they’re getting better all the time,” Morris said.
The seventh- and eighth-grade teams will finish the regular season after the Thanksgiving break, traveling to Hayden on Nov. 29 and Baggs, Wyo., on Nov. 30.
Loveland said that while he would like to finish with a zero in the loss column, he doesn’t want his players to be overconfident.
“Mentally, we can’t become complacent,” he said. “I need to push them and keep reminding them that we have a target on our backs and people want to take us down a notch. They know what we can do, they know our defense, and that’s how we’re practicing: assuming they can beat us.”