Defense was the name of the game Tuesday night at Craig Middle School.
Throughout three middle school basketball games, the team that was tougher without the ball came away with a victory. Both seventh-grade teams from Craig won, while the eighth-graders, who played just one game Tuesday, lost to Soroco.
In the first game of the evening — the seventh-grade B game — the Bulldogs used a big second half to win, 34-23. Craig started slow, falling behind 9-4 to the Rams after a quarter. But they closed the gap in the second quarter and set themselves up for a strong second half.
After giving up 17 points in the first half, CMS surrendered just six in the second and kept scoring themselves. Head coach Jason Buhrman said his team’s conditioning made the difference.
“The way we practice, we’re constantly running and moving,” Buhrman said. “We try to wear teams down and we don’t want to give up any spots on the court so that’s why you see us press. That’s what it came down to tonight.”
Jerod Chacon was big in the paint for the Bulldogs, scoring almost every time his teammates found him in the post.
The seventh-grade A team picked up where their counterparts left off in the next game. The Bulldogs came out in full-court pressure, took a 7-2 lead after a quarter and never looked back. They came away with a 41-12 win.
“They came out with intensity right from the start,” Buhrman said. “I think they saw how well the second half went in the last game and wanted to do the same.”
When Craig was not able to get transition baskets, it pounded the ball inside to great effect.
“That’s our first look” on offense, Buhrman said. “When it gets to the wing, if that pass it open, we take it. If it’s not there then we keep working the ball. It was there today, and they took advantage.”
In the eighth-grade game, however, Soroco turned the tables on CMS and pressured the Bulldogs into difficulty. After a poor first quarter, Craig scored the final four points of the first half and had a buzzer-beater waved off, but took momentum into halftime down 13-8.
But Soroco’s press, followed by a 2-3 zone in the half court, slowed Craig down on offense. On defense, the Bulldogs had a bad third quarter and fell behind 28-11.
“Defensively we weren’t staying in front of them,” said head coach Justin Folley. “We were getting lost on that pick up top and making it easy on them.”
CMS couldn’t finish its defensive possessions either, as Soroco’s big men grabbed tons of offensive rebounds in the third quarter to add buckets.
The Bulldogs shut Soroco out in the fourth quarter, but the damage was done. They fell, 28-17.
“Once we adjusted and focused, we shut them down,” Folley said.
Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org.