Conner Scranton (front) and Eddie Smercina apply full-court pressure to Meeker's ball-handler during the second half of Tuesday's game at CMS. The eighth-grade A team forced a lot of turnovers in the third quarter to open a lead over Meeker and won, 34-18.

Photo by Nate Waggenspack

Conner Scranton (front) and Eddie Smercina apply full-court pressure to Meeker's ball-handler during the second half of Tuesday's game at CMS. The eighth-grade A team forced a lot of turnovers in the third quarter to open a lead over Meeker and won, 34-18.

CMS teams have eyes on a title in Rangely

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Lane Gonzales, an eighth-grader at Craig Middle School, beats his defender on a drive to the basket Tuesday evening at CMS. The B team lost the game, 40-27.

Entering the district tournament, Drew Morris likes where his team is.

The Craig Middle School eighth grade boys basketball coach was pleased with what he saw Tuesday evening in the second half of a 34-18 over Meeker at CMS and hopes to see it translate into more success this weekend. The Bulldogs will try to live up to their No. 1 seed at the district tournament in Rangely.

The A-team’s victory over Meeker didn’t look as certain in the first half. The Bulldogs were outplayed in the second quarter by the Cowboys and went into the intermission with just a 14-12 lead.

“The (A) game, basically we came out a little flat and didn’t play very good defense,” Morris said. “They were taking advantage of some good shots. We just needed to play better defense.”

The defense ratcheted up in the third quarter, as the Bulldogs’ full-court pressure produced a slew of Meeker turnovers and gave CMS easy baskets. They finished the third quarter ahead 26-16 and would win 34-18. Keenan Hildebrandt led the way with 12 points.

Morris was much more pleased with the second half.

“Our press really came through in the second half and we got some easy buckets,” he said. “Our offense started moving the ball a little bit better as well.”

The eighth grade B team played most of the same group of players from Meeker in the following game, and despite being tied in the fourth quarter, fell 40-27. The Bulldogs fell victim to some hot shooting from the Cowboys in the second half.

“We came out and played well,” Morris said of his team’s effort. “Meeker shot the ball well in the second half, they got a lead and held it. That happens.”

Meanwhile, the seventh grade A and B teams were playing in the gym at Sandrock Elementary and turned up opposite results from the eighth grade teams. The A team lost, 32-26, while the B team won on a last second layup, 18-16.

Both teams will now look to come back from the district tournament in Rangely Saturday with a trophy. Each team’s coach believes that is a possibility.

In the seventh grade, coach Justin Folley has seen his team improve a great deal over the course of the season.

“I fee like we’re pretty strong,” he said. “We’ve improved our defense quite a bit this last week. Being able to work together all year has helped these guys grow as a team.”

However, the Bulldogs have lost two close games to Rangely and split their season series with Meeker and Steamboat Springs. So Folley knows it is going to be a difficult road.

“This conference has been pretty tough this year,” he said. “Usually you’ve got 1 or 2 teams that are tough and the others who are pretty down. But I can honestly say that all four teams are pretty strong and evenly matched.”

For the eighth grade team, only Steamboat has managed to beat CMS. Morris and his team feel it is their tournament to lose.

“We feel pretty good about our chances,” Morris said. “I think we’ve got a good chance, coming in as the No. 1 seed, of winning the tournament. We’ve got to execute and play well, and things will happen for us.”

Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com. Follow Craig Daily Press sports coverage on Twitter at @CDP_Sports.

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