A basketball game can always turn when coaches have a chance to make adjustments.
Head coach Matt Ray seemed to make all the right adjustments, and his players responded with a tough second half in beating Olathe, 43-33. The Bulldogs (3-3, 2-1 Western Slope League) overcame a difficult first half offensively and dominated the second half to overwhelm the Pirates (4-1, 2-1).
“The first half we just couldn’t get the ball in the hole,” Ray said after the game. “We had some good open looks from the outside, but they didn’t go in. I also thought we maybe shot too much, too quick from the outside, so I told them at halftime we needed to get some ball reversals. Get on a role before we starting shooting from the outside again, and that’s exactly what we did.”
It was a miserable start for Moffat County, which took an early 4-2 lead but then didn’t score for almost five minutes, falling behind 13-4. The Bulldogs shot poorly but were buoyed on offense by senior Kylee Ellgen, who kept MCHS in the game with eight first half points.
Also important was the Bulldogs’ defense, which only surrendered 20 points to the Pirates in the first two quarters to keep things close.
In the second half, the floodgates opened. Moffat County came out and scored six points in 70 seconds, and would take a 26-20 lead before Olathe stopped the bleeding.
The Bulldogs forced turnovers to get out in transition and found teammates for open shots on skip passes and good reads.
“I felt like we played well in the second half,” senior Bailey Hellander said. “We didn’t play so well in the first half. We came alive in the second.”
Hellander, who scored six of the 10 MCHS points to start out the third, said it was a result of the team just picking up its pace of play.
“We usually play an up-tempo game, so when we’re in the zone, we’re in the zone I guess,” she said. “When we’re going fast we tend to make more shots.”
With a six point lead entering the fourth, Moffat County again came out hot, scoring nine straight points to take a 38-23 lead with just over five minutes remaining.
Ray said the improved offense helped, but defense remained a key. The Bulldogs forced turnovers and largely shut the Pirate offense down, allowing just three points in the third quarter.
“We went back to our matchup zone (in the second half),” Ray said. “They just really seemed to work that zone very well. We forced some turnovers and got easy shots off it.”
Olathe would put together a late run when Moffat County appeared to have the game in hand, but it ultimately fell short.
It was an important win for Moffat County, which had not enjoyed the start to the season it was hoping for, but proved it is a team to be reckoned with by beating the defending league champions.
“Olathe is number one in the league right now, this is their first loss,” Ray said. “They were tough in the league last year and I know they’re a bit young this year but anytime you can beat a league opponent like that who’s good, it’s big.”
The Bulldogs took off quickly after the game, as they had to wake up early for a trip to Gunnison for another WSL tussle before taking a break for the holidays.
Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 875-1795 or email@example.com. Follow Craig Daily Press sports coverage on Twitter at @CDP_Sports.