Craig Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade boys basketball A-team results from the district tournament Saturday in Steamboat Springs:
(Opponent — result)
• Rangely — 63-20W
• Steamboat Springs — 39-30W
— Tournament finish: 1st
— Season record: 11-2
• Rangely — 37-10W
• Steamboat Springs — 33-20L
— Tournament finish: 2nd
— Season record: 13-1
At the end of the 2010 season, the Craig Middle School boys basketball teams took home a first- and second-place title following the district tournament.
Last year’s seventh-graders took home the latter while the older Bulldogs basked in glory of the former.
The final results were the same this year with eighth-graders Kody Fief and Ben Robinson, as well as their coach, coming out on top.
The two starters were among the blue and white victors Saturday when the CMS eighth-graders won the district tournament in Steamboat Springs, defeating their hosts, 39-30, in the last game of the season.
After a 63-20 win over Rangely, the team was confident about the possibility of winning it all, a feeling that almost subsided after a difficult first quarter against the Sailors.
“I think we walked in there kind of expecting to win, which kind of hurt us because we got down to Steamboat, 8-2, at first,” Robinson said. “We just knew we had to get in there with defense, and so we started pulling ahead.”
Coach Drew Morris said the Bulldogs had a narrow lead most of the game.
“We played defense really well, and that kept us in the lead,” he said. “Our offense was good but defense is what got us through.”
Fief said the team tried not to overdo the post-game celebration.
“Steamboat went to half-court and did that (Tim) Tebow pose, so we just wanted to be classy,” he said. “We were still pretty excited.”
Fief said he was particularly pleased to finish middle school basketball on a high note.
“All the hard work finally paid off,” he said.
Morris said an 11-2 season record and a first-place finish were a welcome change from last season’s second-place ending.
“Last year, we were just happy to be in the championship, so this year we were expecting to do a lot better,” he said. “It was nice to get there.”
As he sends his players off to high school, Morris said he hopes his players will not drift apart, on the court or otherwise.
“They need to stay together as a team, that’s my big goal for them,” he said.
Morris said with enough hard work, members of his team could rise to the top of the Moffat County High School hoops program.
“They’ll need to show up and work and show that they deserve that spot,” he said.
Robinson said he hopes to start JV and possibly suit up for varsity during his freshman year.
“We definitely don’t want to stop working on teamwork,” he said.
Seventh-grade team falls in season finale
The seventh-graders were primed to win Saturday’s match-up with Steamboat as well, after pounding the Panthers 37-10 in the tourney’s first round.
“I was ready to take home the championship,” Keenan Hildebrandt said.
But, as the second game progressed, Hildebrandt and his teammates noticed a big difference in the Steamboat players they had defeated twice before this season.
The Bulldogs went on to lose, 33-20, as Steamboat made their improvements known.
“They just shut our offense down, they got good picks and they boxed out real good,” Hildebrandt said. “They were doing everything right.”
Eddie Smercina said the Sailors had clearly come to play.
“They were prepared for us,” he said. “They definitely did a lot more conditioning.
“We were pretty pumped after the Baggs (Wyo.) game (Friday afternoon). That was a weird one because we had to use a girls ball and then we had to go back to the boys ball the next day.”
The loss is the only one of the season for the seventh-grade Bulldogs, who finished 13-1.
Coach Justin Folley said he was frustrated his team didn’t end the year undefeated.
“We still feel like we had a good season,” he said. “It’s a little frustrating going undefeated all the time and then losing the last one, but that’s all part of the game.”
Folley said he expects his team will buck up and improve heading into next season.
“They’re going to make some good adjustments,” he said. “Shots are going to get better, ball-handling’s going to get better and we can work on conditioning once the season starts.”
With this year’s repeat of eighth-graders winning first-place and seventh-graders placing second, Folley said he wouldn’t be surprised if his team went the distance next year, following in the footsteps of the two eighth-grade classes before them.
After all, one element of the game can only come with time and experience.
“I’m expecting to see more mental growth,” he said. “You can see that in the eighth-graders we had this year, that potential. I think we’ll have that next year.”
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