Kyleen Ellgen goes to the basket in transition Friday during Moffat County's regional game against Jefferson Academy in Craig. The Bulldogs pulled away in the second half for a 53-40 win and earned a spot in the regional final Saturday against Kent Denver at 1 p.m.

Photo by Nate Waggenspack

Kyleen Ellgen goes to the basket in transition Friday during Moffat County's regional game against Jefferson Academy in Craig. The Bulldogs pulled away in the second half for a 53-40 win and earned a spot in the regional final Saturday against Kent Denver at 1 p.m.

Moffat County uses 2nd-half flurry to beat Jefferson

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Bailey Hellander puts up a jumper for Moffat County during the regional game against Jefferson Academy Friday.

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Kori Finneman tries to beat her defender from Jefferson Academy Friday in Craig. Finneman led Moffat County with 19 points as the Bulldogs advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 53-40 win.

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Sassy Murray looks for a teammate to pass to as two Jefferson defenders collapse on her. Murray scored seven points, all in the second half, as Moffat County won and moved on to the regional final Saturday.

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Head coach Matt Ray congratulates his team after its win over Jefferson Academy Friday in Craig, while the home crowd cheered the Bulldogs on. The 53-40 regional semifinal win set up a game between Moffat and Kent Denver Saturday at 1 p.m. in Craig.

Girls scoring vs. Jefferson

• Kori Finneman, 19 points

• Kyleen Ellgen, 15

• Sassy Murray, 7

• Lisa Camilletti, 5

• Tori Snyder, 5

• Bailey Hellander, 2

• Makayla Camilletti, 2

The 3-point shot was not a weapon the way it has been all season for the Moffat County girls basketball team, but one make-from-beyond-the-arc shot sparked it Friday.

The Bulldogs were in a fight with Jefferson Academy through almost three quarters Friday in Craig in a regional semifinal game. But they were able to put together a big run — something else Moffat County has done all season long — to secure a 53-40 victory and advance to the regional final.

The Jaguars used their quickness to play tight defense on Moffat for most of the game and stuck around, even taking a 29-27 lead midway through the third quarter. A minute later, Tori Snyder received a pass and hesitated to take a 3 before burying it with a defender on her.

That shot gave Moffat County a 32-29 lead, a lead they would expand on quickly. It was 38-31 by the end of the third quarter and 48-34 halfway through the fourth.

Snyder said it was the type of momentum-changing shot the Bulldogs needed.

“The fact that I shot in (the defender’s) eye, it definitely pumped me up,” she said after the game. “I’ve never wanted anything so bad as to win state, so I’ll do whatever I can to help us get there.”

Coach Matt Ray had expected a tough game against Jefferson and was not disappointed. Their speed led to plenty of Bulldogs turnovers and fast break points. But when it mattered, once again his team came through.

“That’s a trait of our team. We always seem to get a run somewhere in the game,” Ray said. “These girls never give up. No matter what, we find a way to overcome.”

In a tight first half, Kori Finneman kept Moffat County afloat with 10 of its 23 points. She repeatedly stepped outside the post area and hit jumpers, finishing the game with 19 points to lead all scorers.

In the second half, three other Bulldogs stepped up. Snyder scored five points in the third, Kyleen Ellgen had eight points in the frame and Sassy Murray added five more in the fourth.

The win sends Moffat County into the regional final to take on Kent Denver at 1 p.m. Saturday at MCHS. Ray watched the Sun Devils beat Middle Park in the early game Friday and said he saw mostly what he expected.

“They have three really good players,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we know where they are at all times. No. 10 and No. 1 can shoot, so we’ve got to close out on them well.”

But Ray pointed to the superior bench play from his team as to why he likes Moffat’s chances in another difficult game.

“It will be another tight game I expect,” he said. “But the way we had Sassy and Tori come off the bench and give us big minutes, who knows who will do that for us tomorrow. So far, someone has all season.”

Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com. Follow the regional final on Twitter at @CDP_Sports.

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