Taft Cleverly goes to the basket on a pass from Kort Hathhorn in the first half of Saturday's district championship game in Palisade. Moffat County beat Aspen to win the district tournament, 62-54.

Photo by Nate Waggenspack

Taft Cleverly goes to the basket on a pass from Kort Hathhorn in the first half of Saturday's district championship game in Palisade. Moffat County beat Aspen to win the district tournament, 62-54.

Moffat County boys rally to beat Aspen for district title

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— After sixteen dismal minutes, Moffat County put together eight good ones and eight excellent ones to earn a come-from-behind district championship.

Boys scoring vs. Aspen

Kort Hathhorn 26

Joe Camilletti 18

Taft Cleverly 9

Javen Gumber 5

Matt Hamilton 4

Unable to rebound and dealing with foul trouble, the boys basketball team took over in the fourth quarter of the 3A Western Slope District Championship game and beat Aspen to win. The Bulldogs outscored the Skiers, 25-11, in the final quarter to win, 62-54.

“What a comeback for us,” coach Eric Hamilton said after the game. “Our team played with more sense of urgency (in the second half) and they just refused to lose. They would not lose this game."

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The Moffat County boys basketball team are the 2014 3A Western Slope District Champions. It beat Aspen 62-54 after falling behind in the first half to secure the title.

The Bulldogs fell behind in the first half on the strength of Aspen’s rebounding capability. After outrebounding Grand Valley on Friday and knowing they needed to do the same, the Bulldogs gave up several offensive rebounds and lost scrums for the ball, resulting in easy Aspen baskets.

The final play of the second quarter was representative of the whole half. Moffat County knocked the ball loose on defense, but Aspen senior Clayton Crawford corralled it in the waning seconds and finished off a layup as the buzzer sounded, giving the Skiers a 30-22 lead at the break.

“They killed us rebounding, and at halftime, that’s all we talked about,” Moffat County’s lone senior, Taft Cleverly, said after the game. “That was one of those games that’s mostly on heart and who wanted to come out with the win more.”

In the second half, the Bulldogs came out stronger but only closed the gap by two points by the end of the third quarter, trailing, 43-37. But in the fourth, they shifted into another gear with their pace of play, and Aspen’s short bench reared its head.

Starting point guard Levi Wright began the quarter on the bench in foul trouble, and center Trent Lichtenwalter was getting his head wrapped after a collision opened a cut above his eye in the third. With two starters out, Moffat’s pressure defense began to force more turnovers and allowed the Bulldogs a chance to get back in the game.

Kort Hathhorn led the way with 26 points and Joe Camilletti added 18, and both guards attacked the basket repeatedly, scoring or drawing fouls. Moffat took the lead for the first time on a layup plus the foul by Camilletti with two minutes remaining.

After getting a stop, the Bulldogs frantically moved the ball around past Aspen’s halfcourt trap and found Javen Gumber open on the baseline. The sophomore, who barely had played before the fourth quarter because of foul trouble, took two dribbles and dunked to give the Bulldogs a 57-54 lead with less than a minute left.

“I just got a shot of adrenaline, jumped up and dunked it,” Gumber said. The sophomore finished with just five points but had two key ones in the win.

After losing a tight game in the district championship a year ago, Saturday’s win was that much sweeter.

“That game was on the front of our minds today,” Cleverly said. “We didn’t want to leave here with that heartache two years in a row. It’s great to get the win.”

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

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