The Moffat County boys basketball team worked on its offense at practice Tuesday, which was its final practice of the season in Craig. The Bulldogs leave Wednesday for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where they will take on Colorado Academy in the state quarterfinals Thursday morning.

Photo by Nate Waggenspack

The Moffat County boys basketball team worked on its offense at practice Tuesday, which was its final practice of the season in Craig. The Bulldogs leave Wednesday for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where they will take on Colorado Academy in the state quarterfinals Thursday morning.

Moffat County boys have tough test aginst Denver's Colorado Academy on Thursday

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— Now in the final week of a memorable basketball season, the Moffat County boys are excited and confident.

The Bulldogs are playing at the 3A state tournament this weekend in the quarterfinals, Moffat County’s first trip to the round of eight in at least 11 years, as far back as the Colorado High School Activities Association online archives go. Since moving to Class 3A in the 2012-13 season due to student count, Moffat has made the playoffs both years but missed out on the Great 8 a year ago.

If you go

What: Moffat County (20-4) at Colorado Academy (22-2)

When: 10:15 a.m. Thursday

Where: Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs

Watch online

All remaining CHSAA playoff games, including Moffat County boys (3A) and Meeker boys and girls (2A) games, will be broadcast online by the NFHS Network. Visit www.nfhsnetwork.c... to watch Moffat County, or go to www.nfhsnetwork.com and search "CHSAA Playoffs" to find other games.

“I’m pretty psyched up about it, and I think pretty much everybody is,” senior Taft Cleverly said. “It’s pretty cool.”

The team’s reward for making the quarterfinals is a 10:15 a.m. matchup Thursday against fourth-seeded Denver's Colorado Academy at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Colorado Academy, which is 22-2 this season, taking second in both the 3A Metro League and district tournament.

The Mustangs feature a trio of talented sophomores. Justin Bassey (20.4 points per game), Jack Buckmelter (19 ppg) and Christian Hyatt (15 ppg) give them as potent a guard combination as there is in the state.

“They have an outstanding perimeter game,” coach Eric Hamilton said about the Mustangs. “They can really shoot it, and they like to push the ball. They can score a bunch of points in a hurry.”

Colorado Academy is one of the few teams the Bulldogs will play this season with a higher scoring average. The Mustangs like to run, whereas many teams Moffat has encountered try to slow the game down.

While Moffat has been comfortable sprinting up and down the court, Hamilton wants to make sure that if the game becomes a track meet, it is on the Bulldogs’ terms.

“I anticipate a fast-paced game,” he said. “But we want to be in control of the tempo, not chasing them around.”

To do that, Cleverly said, Moffat County will need to get back on defense and not give up fast-break points. The goal is also to contain the scoring of the three sophomore stars and force another Mustang to step up.

If it can get past Colorado Academy, Moffat County will play the winner between No. 9 Faith Christian and No. 16 Manitou Springs at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Both won by a point in the regional final to get to the Great 8, with Manitou defeating the No. 1 seed in the tournament, Jefferson Academy.

With a win Friday, the Bulldogs would play at 6 p.m. in the championship game, against whichever team can come out of the other half of the bracket. Their potential opponents would be Holy Family, Brush, Denver Science & Tech Stapleton or Colorado Springs Christian.

Every game is difficult at this stage of the tournament, but Moffat County is coming off a strong win against Bishop Machebeuf and riding high.

“We’re definitely feeling confident right now,” Cleverly said. “It feels like we’re peaking at the right time.”

One way or another, Moffat County’s lone senior will see his high school career come to an end this weekend. Without making any predictions, he hopes it ends well.

“I want to make the best of it,” he said. “Hopefully, we go out and win as many games as we can.”

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

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