The girls basketball team's ball security could be a major factor in its game against Middle Park Friday. Both teams average 17 steals per game with pressure defense. The sixth-seeded Bulldogs host the Panthers at 6 p.m. in the MCHS gym

Photo by Nate Waggenspack

The girls basketball team's ball security could be a major factor in its game against Middle Park Friday. Both teams average 17 steals per game with pressure defense. The sixth-seeded Bulldogs host the Panthers at 6 p.m. in the MCHS gym

Turnovers key in Moffat County game against Middle Park

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Middle Park at Moffat County

3A regional semifinal

6 p.m. Friday

MCHS gym

Winner plays on Saturday the winner of Bishop Machebeuf vs. The Academy

If not for its impressive run through the Western Slope District tournament last weekend, the Moffat County girls basketball team would not be hosting games this weekend.

The Bulldogs were in good position to make the tournament entering the weekend but without winning it, they would not have been chosen worthy as a top-eight seed.

Today, they host a team who had a similar end to its season at the opposite end of the tournament spectrum.

The Middle Park Panthers (13-10, 5-6 Frontier League) finished tied for seventh in the 3A Frontier League this season but got hot and went 3-1 in the Frontier District tournament to earn a regional qualifying position.

Their reward is to play the sixth-seeded Bulldogs, also playing their best basketball of the year.

“We didn’t know we were going,” Middle Park coach Diane Bickler said. “It’s my first year as coach, so I didn’t understand the way the brackets worked. It was literally screaming in the locker room when we found out we were going” to the playoffs.

The Panthers average more than 17 steals per game and have shot an impressive 52 percent from the floor this season, but have just one player averaging better than five points per game. That’s Erin O’Connor, who at 12 points per game is where Moffat County wants to focus its defense.

“We saw them playing here last year (vs. Kent Denver),” assistant coach Norm Yoast said. “We know their big girl is pretty good, and they like to work it into the post. We want to defend those lobs well and keep good pressure on the ball so they have trouble getting it inside.”

Moffat County also forces its opponents into plenty of turnovers with pressure defense. Turnovers plagued Middle Park in many of its losses this season, but when it mattered most, Bickler said the team was able to maintain its cool.

“Basically patience is what helped us,” she said. “We needed to settle our game and not get so nervous before the game. It all turned around with our composure.”

Moffat County also has showed increased composure in recent weeks, giving them increased confidence heading into this weekend’s games.

“If we play like we have the last couple weeks and shoot like we have, cause we’ve shot threes and free throws well, we should be fine,” Yoast said. “But it’s tourney time, so you never know. It helps to have our gym and our fans.”

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

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