Lady Bulldogs basketball looks to begin state run Friday

Friday's other game...

Kent Denver (18-4), from Englewood

• Coach: Cambrie Nelson

• 8-1 (second) in 3A/2A Metropolitan League

• Third in Metro League district tournament

vs.

Middle Park (14-7)

• Coach: Cheri Amos-Helmicki

• 8-3 (fourth) in 3A Frontier League

• Third in Frontier League district tournament

— Now is the time for the Moffat County girls basketball team’s experience to really pay off.

In two tight district tournament games, the Bulldogs stood tall against late-game pressure to win. Head coach Matt Ray says that needs to continue to be an advantage for the team if it wants to advance deep into the state tournament.

The team received a No. 5 seed in the bracket and will host regional tournament games Friday as it moves toward the ultimate goal of winning a state championship. Ray thinks that is a real possibility for his Lady Bulldogs.

It starts at 7 p.m. Friday when Moffat County hosts Jefferson Academy in the first round of regionals. The winner plays in Saturday’s regional finals.

“I think we got a great seed,” Ray said about the bracket. “We’re a top-five team in the state, I think we may even be better than that, but I see the bracket playing out well for us if we can win.”

Ray likes the team’s potential matchups through the first few rounds of the tournament. Even if the stronger teams win, he doesn’t see a team that will give the Bulldogs an especially difficult matchup until deep in the tournament.

That’s not to say he doesn’t realize that in a 32-team tournament, every team is strong in some way.

“We’ll be challenged every game,” he said. “Jefferson went 10-12, but they weren’t really blown out all season. They’ve been in a lot of close games, even against some weaker teams. They’re probably a hot-and-cold type team.”

The first team to take on the Bulldogs will be Jefferson Academy out of Broomfield. The Jaguars went 10-12 and took seventh in the competitive Metropolitan League, which has seven teams in regionals this weekend.

Jefferson coach Kevin Foster knows his team will have a tall task against Moffat County, but they are used to playing against the best.

“We’re a little war-weary,” Foster said. “Coming out of our league, we’re ready to play some other teams.”

The Jaguars have no players who average double-figures in points, but five who average 5 or more per game. They have six seniors on the team but have gotten big contributions lately from underclassmen, Foster said.

Foster knows playing Moffat County will be challenge, just as playing any highly-ranked team in the state would be. But last season was Jefferson’s first ever not making a regional game, and they are hungry to correct that.

“We know their first five are some quality players who can all score and get around the rim,” Foster said about Moffat County. “All those things that a No. 5 team in state is expected to be, they’re right there.”

With their seasons on the line in do-or-die games this weekend, both teams will be bringing intensity to the court Friday in Craig. While Jefferson may be a bit more athletic than Moffat, Ray said the Bulldogs are prepared for any level.

“I look at Roaring Fork and Olathe, I look at those teams as good as the rest of the state,” he said. “We had close games against them. It comes down to who executes throughout the whole game.”

In the first regional game of the day Friday, Kent Denver takes on Middle Park at 5 p.m. in the MCHS gym.

Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com.

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