Palisade Frustrated for much of the game, Moffat County’s inside players came through in the clutch Friday against Roaring Fork.
Playing in a tense district semifinal at Palisade High School, the Moffat County High School girls basketball team executed late in the game to win 39-38.
Roaring Fork compacted its 2-3 zone defense to keep Moffat County from scoring in the paint. The Rams’ scheme worked for the most part — the Bulldogs were forced to shoot from the outside and couldn’t find their stroke.
“They outsize us at every spot,” Lady Bulldogs head coach Matt Ray said about Roaring Fork. “Until the fourth quarter, nobody was really going aggressively at them. Kyleen Ellgen got aggressive then, she realized she could do that. She probably could have done it the whole game.”
It was a low-scoring first half, with Moffat County leading 16-15 at the break. Of their first-half points, just four came from inside the three-point line. In the third quarter, Roaring Fork went on a run and took a 25-19 lead led by Megan Gianinetti.
Roaring Fork led 29-26 at the end of the third, setting up a fourth quarter in which every possession felt as if it would decide the game. Moffat County trailed 36-34 with two minutes remaining but executed to perfection down the stretch.
Kori Finneman hit a jumper to tie the game and then was open inside on the ensuing possession to give the Bulldogs a lead. On the defensive end, she knocked the ball away from Gianinetti and forced a turnover.
Finneman had been bothered by the Roaring Fork defense most of the game, but she came through in the game’s final minutes.
In Craig, "they didn’t play defense like that,” she said. “Here, everybody crashed on us and it was tough. We had to rely on the three to keep us ahead early. We wanted it, so we were going to do anything we could to win.”
After a Lisa Camilletti free throw, Roaring Fork couldn’t get a 3-point attempt off and made a layup instead as time expired.
Moffat County moves on to the district championship game at 2 p.m. Saturday in Palisade.
Ray was pleased with the win and especially his team’s play down the stretch, which he knows he will need to see going forward in the postseason. The Lady Bulldogs already have qualified for next week’s regionals.
“With size, we are kind of afraid to attack it,” he said. “We can’t let that get in our way, especially in the playoffs. We still have to play our style of basketball and attack the basket.”
Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the district tournament on Twitter at @CDP_Sports.