Craig Middle School hoops vies with Vikings to test limits |

Craig Middle School hoops vies with Vikings to test limits

Craig Middle School's Thayne Kitchen charges in for the layup against Riverside Friday afternoon. The CMS eighth-grade boys basketball A-Team fell to the Vikings 55-48.
Andy Bockelman

No team wants to lose a game, yet Craig Middle School hoops coaches prefer to look at recent defeats as a motivator to finish the remainder of the season stronger than ever.

CMS basketball’s only remaining home events Friday had mixed results as the Bulldogs welcomed the Riverside Vikings of New Castle, an unfamiliar school to give the boys in blue a worthwhile challenge before Thanksgiving break.

Bulldogs had a split altogether with wins for each of the B-Teams and losses for both the A-Teams.

With B games won by totals of 27-9 and 31-15, each of the A groups were feeling confident about their chances with the Vikings, and the eighth-grade first-stringers didn’t let a 29-25 deficit at halftime get them down.

However, both sides came out of the locker room with just as much energy, and it was the early lead that helped carry Riverside to a 55-48 victory as they remained just far enough ahead throughout the remaining two quarters.

“I’m not mad about it because us putting up 48 points showed our offense still had a spark and kept us going, but we just couldn’t finish this one,” said coach Forrest Watson.

The loss was the first of the year for the 12-1 A-Team, who also took two wins at a Nov. 10 tournament hosted by Soroco and stomped Steamboat Springs on the road the following day.

Nevertheless, Watson noted there is work to be done, especially on transition defense.

“We’re not used to playing close games like this, so we’ll be going back to the drawing board,” he said.

While the score remained close across the game for eighth-graders, the fourth quarter squeaker for the seventh-grade Vikings was all the more frustrating for their CMS opponents, who fell 29-28 when Riverside scored an unexpected bucket with five seconds remaining.

Though Cort Murphy attempted a buzzer-beater from nearly half-court, all the Viking defenders had to do was get a hand on it to deny the comeback and seal their win following a 10-0 run in the final minutes.

“We had that nine-point lead at 28 and then we just got stuck in some quicksand and couldn’t score,” said coach Ben Egger. “Once we started making mistakes, they just compounded the worse it got.”

Even so, Egger said the experience will benefit his players.

“You need to have these kind of heartbreaker games because they’re going to learn from it,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

The seventh-grade A-Team is now 9-4 after going 2-0 at Soroco but losing to Steamboat.

Following the holiday break, CMS boys will have one week remaining in the season with a Tuesday game in Hayden scheduled leading up to the district tourney Dec. 2 in Steamboat Springs.

In that timeframe, coaches would also like to travel to New Castle, both to settle the score and to continue acquainting Craig players with competitors they’ll see in the future considering the Vikings will move on to Coal Ridge High School.

“We’re really pushing to set those up, and it looks like it may happen,” Watson said. “It’s a great start because we never see teams like that in middle school, and they need to see a team that’s in their league in high school.”

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