Bulldog boys basketball hits the court with high hopes in condensed season

The team is looking for their first winning season since 2014-15.

The Moffat County Boys’ Basketball team starts its season on Jan. 29 when they face off against the Vail Christian Saints, looking to get off to a fast start and rebound off an 8-12 season in 2019-20.

Bulldogs head coach Steve Maneotis looks to continue the program turnaround after a 6-15 record in the 2018-19 season. The team has not had a winning season since the 2014-15 season when they went 19-5.

The 2021 team is looking to be led by seniors Wesley Counts and Chris Maneotis. Counts was second on the team in scoring last year with 10.2 points per game, putting him just behind 2020 graduate Landon Najera who had 10.4 points per game. Counts shot 34.4% from behind the arc last season, something that he wants to improve on this season.

“I really want to be a good three-point shooter and play better on the defensive end and just help my team,” Counts said.

The team is looking towards the goals at the end of the season of making a run at the state tournament. But first, the Bulldogs are eyeing a 3A Western Slope League championship.

“But in order to secure a league championship, it comes down to taking care of business, day in and day out,” Maneotis said. “We do daily quotes in practice and one of the quotes was everybody has the will to win, but you have to have the will to practice and be consistent in practice.”

The team will have a sprint to the finish this season. After their first game, they have a week off until they play back-to-back games against Middle Park on the road and Central High at home. The team will have to rely heavily on their depth throughout the schedule, something that Maneotis thinks his team is ready for.

“Well we’ll go with Vail Christian and get this thing started on Friday night. We lose Steamboat on the 30th due to COVID testing on a player, so they are done until Feb. 1 and then it is a marathon,” Maneotis said. “When you look at our schedule we have Middle Park on the fifth, Grand Junction Central on the sixth — both great games — and then to Montrose and Grand Junction, so depth is going to be huge and you don’t think you can ever go wrong when you have enough talent that you can rotate. We’ll see how it works.”

In the same way that the girls basketball team worked out at Woodbury Park last summer, the boys team did as well. That time playing pick up and putting up shots will help them as the season starts, Chris Maneotis said.

“It kept a lot of the players in shape, just being able to go down and get together and do something even through the tough times, and it showed a lot of commitment from the players, of what we’re willing to do, to get better and do good this year,” Maneotis said.

When the Bulldogs take the floor on Jan. 29 against the Saints, they will be doing so in front of two family members per player for a total of 24 fans in the stands at MCHS. That is something that means a lot to the players on the team, but the lack of a full gym is something that they hope changes sooner rather than later.

“It’s definitely tough not having all the students and family members coming to watch. But like I said, hopefully that will change later on,” Counts said. “But we just gotta go out and play basketball.”

The team’s endurance will be challenged this season especially as the players are forced to wear masks during the games.

“The big thing for me right now is we’re wearing masks, it’s hard to breathe in the masks, so the endurance factor becomes critical in a game of how long can a player stay on the floor. We have a rotation, where guys can come in and we can keep it going,” Coach Maneotis said. “That’s why I listed everybody; it’s going to be a fun, fun group to watch.”

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