Beary Christmas: Moffat County basketball closes 2019 with home opener vs. Rifle
Their final competitions of the decade were ones to remember for the members of Moffat County High School basketball.
Though, some for different reasons than others.
The MCHS hoops home opener with Rifle saw mixed results for Bulldog varsity squads as girls coasted to a 53-29 win and boys endured a tough night on the court in a 52-37 defeat to the Bears.
The night began smoothly for the Dogs as the junior varsity rosters rocked Rifle, starting with JV girls’ 32-20 W.
“The effort’s there, they’re getting better at ball-handling, making good decisions,” said JV girls coach Joe Padon. “It’s the little things we’re getting better at, and there’s a couple of things we need to improve on, but they’ll get there.”
JV boys started 10-0 in the hole against the Bears, but a tight fourth quarter flipped the MoCo status as the home team came back for a 44-42 victory.
Both varsity lineups saw some shifts with younger players moving to the bigger bench, with some temporary slots opening up thanks to Reese Weber, Rylie Felten and Ryan Peck each rolling their ankle during Tuesday games in Steamboat Springs.
The changes didn’t hinder Lady Bulldogs, particularly in their opening quarter. The first eight minutes of the game saw MoCo girls on point from the arc as Halle Hamilton, Cayden King, Stephenie Swindler and Jacie Evenson each hit a triple in the 20-9 period.
The outside shooting slowed from there — Emaleigh Papierski would hit two more 3-pointers as the game progressed with Hamilton earning a second — to make it 27-13 at halftime.
Though the third quarter went better for the Bears in a 10-9 round as Lady Dogs struggled in their shooting, Moffat County girls found their groove in the fourth with a newfound attack beneath the bucket.
Papierski, King and Hamilton each finished with 10 points on the night, with eight for Jenna Timmer, three for Evenson, and six each for Swindler and Amber Salazar.
Salazar’s tenacity in the low post paid off as she fought for each possession.
“We were all just trying to stay positive and keep going,” she said. “You’ve just got to play your game and do whatever you can. I just did my game as best as I could. Things worked out.”
The win against the 4A Bears was a fine conclusion to the early season for head coach Jim Loughran, though the multiple injuries weren’t the only problem.
“We’re struggling a little bit. We don’t really have a solid rotation yet, and we’re still putting that together,” he said.
With three straight weeks featuring two or more games — and only one on home court — practice time has been limited, he added.
“That’s our biggest frustration,” Loughran said. “It really affects you. We’ve got a lot of time off coming up, so I’m trying to set up a scrimmage.”
Bulldog boys varsity looked to make the evening a clean sweep against the Bears, but Rifle’s top squad had other ideas, getting an early jump on the Dogs in a 13-7 start.
A putback by Wesley Counts midway through the second quarter got the Bulldogs the closest they would be for the remainder of the game — within one point at 15-14 — before going to a 19-15 intermission, advantage Rifle.
The lid on the MoCo hoop remained stubbornly sealed for most of the third quarter, though Counts and Myles Simpson nailed three-pointers for the group’s only scores in the period other than free throws.
Repeated trips to the charity stripe gave Rifle nearly half their point tally, ending the evening with a 23-for-29 count in foul shots compared to 16 successful free throws on the same number of chances for the Dogs, most of which came in the final minutes as teams upped their defense.
Counts led with 11 points, followed by seven for Jordan Carlson, five each for Simpson and Chris Maneotis, three for Logan Hafey and one for Jerod Chacon.
Bulldog boys moved to 2-6 with the loss.
While both Bulldog teams will start the 3A Western Slope League schedule Jan. 17 at home against Gunnison, the 6-2 MCHS girls will have the first competition in the new year between the two, hosting Grand Junction’s Central High School Jan. 11.