Matt Hamilton puts up a floater over a Grand Valley defender Friday at Palisade High School. Hamilton and the Bulldogs beat the Cardinals 80-67 less than a week after losing to them at home. They play Aspen for the district championship Saturday at 5:45 p.m.

Photo by Nate Waggenspack

Matt Hamilton puts up a floater over a Grand Valley defender Friday at Palisade High School. Hamilton and the Bulldogs beat the Cardinals 80-67 less than a week after losing to them at home. They play Aspen for the district championship Saturday at 5:45 p.m.

Moffat County boys enter district final with win against Grand Valley

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Less than a week after being beaten by the Grand Valley boys basketball team in Craig, Moffat County’s boys put together a different effort and beat the Cardinals when it mattered most.

Playing Grand Valley in the 3A Western Slope district semifinals, the Bulldogs put together a full team effort and dominated the rebounding to earn an 80-67 win.

They move on to the district finals Saturday against Aspen for a chance to play host when the regional tournament starts.

“We played good team ball and good team D,” coach Eric Hamilton said after the game. “You can’t totally shut their shooters down, but we ran out on them and challenged them. We at least slowed them down.”

Moffat County started out slow but built a 14-5 lead late in the first quarter. Grand Valley called a timeout and pushed the margin down to four points but never got closer than that the rest of the game.

The Bulldogs opened up leads of 14 and 16 points on multiple occasions in the second half, and Grand Valley responded but never could put together a run to come all the way back.

One major reason for Moffat County’s control of the game was its work on the boards. The Bulldogs held Grand Valley to one shot on most possessions and got lots of second-chance points when they were on offense.

“A big point the coaches made was that we needed to get on the glass,” said Matt Hamilton said Friday. “We’ve been getting outrebounded, and I’m kinda sick of it. We’re going to need to do that tomorrow too. (Aspen forwards Clayton) Crawford and (Trent) Lichtenwalter are good rebounders.”

Taking a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, Moffat County held the margin in double digits and forced Grand Valley to start fouling early.

The Cardinals began intentionally fouling with nearly three minutes left in the game, trying to create one for two exchanges to claw back into the game. But Moffat County responded well, making 20 of 24 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter alone to seal the deal.

“They stepped up and hit some good free throws,” Eric Hamilton said. “Foul shots and rebounding in the playoffs, that’s how you win.”

Matt Hamilton said if the Bulldogs play a similar game Saturday, they will be successful against Aspen.

“We were playing as a team for sure,” he said. “We were distributing the ball and that’s what makes it fun. Tomorrow we’re going to have to rebound again and attack them I think. We can’t slow down.”

Contact Nate Waggenspack at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com.

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