Taft Cleverly, a Moffat County High School sophomore point guard, drives the lane Friday against Green River (Wyo.) High School during the Steamboat Springs Shootout. Cleverly hit three late free throws to give the MCHS boys varsity basketball team a 50-47 victory and a spot in today’s fifth- and sixth-place game.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

Taft Cleverly, a Moffat County High School sophomore point guard, drives the lane Friday against Green River (Wyo.) High School during the Steamboat Springs Shootout. Cleverly hit three late free throws to give the MCHS boys varsity basketball team a 50-47 victory and a spot in today’s fifth- and sixth-place game.

MCHS boys basketball team bounces back with 50-47 victory

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Box score from the Moffat County High School boys varsity basketball team’s game Friday against Green River (Wyo.) High School in the Steamboat Springs Shootout:

(Team — 1st — 2nd — 3rd — 4th — final)

• Moffat County — 13 — 10 — 14 — 13 — 50

• Green River — 9 — 10 — 10 — 18 — 47

MCHS leading scorers:

(Name — points)

• Colby Haddan — 14

• Taft Cleverly — 12

• Tyler Davis — 6

• Jacob Scroggs — 6

• Braeden Sullivan — 6

As Taft Cleverly stood at the foul line Friday at Steamboat Springs High School, he and his teammates found themselves in a very different situation than from the day before.

On Thursday, the Moffat County High School boys varsity basketball team struggled mightily against Windsor High School, losing in a 95-48 blowout in the first round of the Steamboat Springs Shootout.

Fortunes for the Bulldogs changed on the tournament’s second day.

Facing Green River (Wyo.) High School, Cleverly, an MCHS sophomore, sank two free throws to give the Bulldogs a 49-47 lead with 6.8 seconds remaining.

A steal and another Cleverly free throw later and MCHS had secured a 50-47 win and a trip to the tournament’s fifth- and sixth-place game.

“We played a good game,” Cleverly said. “We knew we had to play better and we bounced back from a hard loss (Thursday) and we did it as a team.

“After the first loss, we could have put our heads down and accepted another losing season, but that’s not what we wanted.”

The Bulldogs (1-1) took an early 5-0 lead and never trailed until the fourth quarter.

Down 45-38, Green River scored nine unanswered points to take a 47-45 lead with 49 seconds left.

However, senior Colby Haddan hit a jumper 14 seconds later to tie the game, and the Bulldogs defense stood strong to draw a charge on Green River’s next possession.

“We’ve got a team with players who all have good character,” head coach Eric Hamilton said. “These guys want to win and they fought until the end.”

Haddan led the Bulldogs with 14 points and Cleverly added 12.

Green River kept the game close throughout the first half, trailing by four at the break, 23-19.

In the second half, however, the Bulldogs didn’t allow Green River to score until more than 3 minutes had elapsed in the third quarter.

Two jump shots from freshman Tyler Davis gave the Bulldogs a 37-29 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Cleverly said the team’s defense was key and everyone stuck to his man.

“I saw everyone down and trying hard against their guy,” he said. “We had to shut down every player and couldn’t let them score. If we could shut down their whole team, we knew we could win.”

Hamilton said the Bulldogs matched up better with Green River than Windsor.

“We stuck to our 2-3 zone and shut them down and took a nice lead early,” he said. “I think the defense gave the team confidence on offense and it was just a solid defensive game for our team.”

Senior starters Andy Browning and Braeden Sullivan fouled out in the fourth quarter.

Hamilton said the players coming off the bench stepped up and contributed to the victory.

Davis finished with six points and junior Tyler Hildebrandt added two, but it wasn’t just points that helped, Hamilton said.

“Some guys had to come into huge pressure situations like the fourth quarter and now we know we can rely on them,” he said. “That is a huge confidence builder for them and as coaches, we saw that we have a team we can build around this year.”

Cleverly may have clinched the game with his free throws, but he took over the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

The sophomore point guard distributed the ball in the first three quarters, but scored seven points in the final period, including back-to-back lay-ups.

“We knew we had to score, and my teammates were driving as well, so I just went up with the ball,” he said. “When it came to the free throws, I was nervous, but I had practiced them … and I had the confidence to put them down.”

The Bulldogs play Castle View at 10:45 a.m. today.

Hamilton said the first two games readied his team for the rest of the season.

“It is amazing that these guys got blown out by Windsor, but they picked their heads up and kept fighting,” he said. “Green River made a run at the end, but we finished and that took guts.”

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