Free throws help Bulldogs beat Panthers
Going into the game against the Rangely Panthers, the Moffat County High School boys basketball team was barely shooting better than 50 percent from the free-throw line. They had plenty of opportunities to improve that percentage as they went to the foul line 28 times in a 69-59 win over the visiting Panthers Thursday.
“We’ve spent a lot of time in practice putting in our system,” said first-year head coach Mike LeWarne. “So we haven’t had as much of an opportunity to shoot free throws in practice, but Rangely fouled the right guy tonight and we prevailed.”
Senior Pablo Loya was sent to the charity stripe 10 times in the fourth quarter and hit all 10 on the way to a 33-point night. In total, the Bulldogs scored 15 of their 17 points in the fourth quarter from free throws and were 20-28 from the line for an improved 71 percent.
“Free throws are going to be key for us this year because our league is going to be so close,” LeWarne said.
“We’ll be in a lot of very close games that will come down to who makes or misses from the line.”
The Bulldogs’ full-court pressure in the first half made it look like this game wouldn’t be practice for a close conference game as MCHS took a 39-22 lead into halftime. After intermission, Rangely looked like a different team as the Bulldogs went into a zone, and the Panthers proceeded to outscore the home team, 16-4. With 4:28 remaining in the third quarter, Rangely was within two with a score of 41-39.
At that point, Bulldog seniors Loya and Joe Padon took it upon themselves to get the offense rolling. Padon drove to the hole for two of his 10 points and Loya hit two consecutive threes to break the game back open, 49-39.
“I felt like they were slower than me,” Padon said.
“So I was able to take it around the quarter and go to the basket tonight.”
The score stayed near a 10-point difference the rest of the game.
“We finally started to play ball in that third quarter,” said Rangely coach Mark Skelton, of his previously undefeated Panthers. “But Moffat County really capitalized on their opportunities down the stretch and good teams are going to do that.”
LeWarne said the successful results from the full-court press and man-to-man defense, as compared to the not so successful results of the zone in the third quarter, solidified his belief that the Bulldogs are a man-to-man team.
“Once again, we got after it on the defensive side when we played man,” he said. “I thought (Rangely) would come out with some set plays after the half so I went to the zone, but we are definitely a man team.”
Freshmen Derek Duran and Kevin Loughran continue to earn more playing time and score more points as the season progresses. They contributed seven and 11 points respectively.
“Kevin benefited from their best player guarding Anthony (Loughran, junior) and he was able to take advantage of the mismatch,” LeWarne said. “Those freshmen have a lot of basketball experience and they’re ready for the varsity level.”
The win sends the Bulldogs into Christmas break with a 4-2 record. When they return to practice after break, the focus will be on Western Slope Conference opponents.
“This was a nice win going into Christmas break,” Loya said. “It gives us a good effort we can fall back on to build with going into league play.”
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com.
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