MCHS boys basketball team hangs tough with bigger schools at camp |

MCHS boys basketball team hangs tough with bigger schools at camp

Nate Waggenspack

Incoming Moffat County High School sophomore Matt Hamilton goes up for a layup at a youth camp the team hosted in June. The Bulldogs closed out summer play at a team camp July 9 through 12 at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.

Moffat County High School boys basketball players closed out a successful summer of play last week during a camp at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.

The team finished 14-11 in summer league games against teams from Northwest Colorado and southwest Wyoming. Next, the team got to test itself against new competition at a team camp in Grand Junction.

Against a variety of schools, including 5A schools from Colorado and Utah, the Bulldogs finished 5-5 and took second place in the tournament that closed the camp.

Head coach Eric Hamilton was pleased with the way his players performed. Last season, Hamilton’s first with MCHS, the Bulldogs finished 6-15, sixth place in the Western Slope League.

"The varsity team played awesome. They got better every day," Hamilton said of summer play. "We've got a lot of things to improve on, but the kids are really clicking and they're running well.

“Our guys are intense and that's what we want. We're getting there."

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The camp at Mesa was a smaller team camp from July 9 through 12, with a dozen teams participating, but it featured schools from east of Denver to Mount Pleasant, Utah.

MCHS players felt they played well.

"I thought we did really well with the team that we had and stuck together," incoming junior Taft Cleverly said.

A highlight for the Bulldogs came when they beat the team from Fruita Monument High School. Fruita is a 5A school that went 21-4 last year and has made the 5A state championship tournament round of 16 the past two years.

"In the game against Fruita Monument, when we played it seemed like our team was firing on all cylinders," Cleverly said. "We were meshing together. Everyone knew what the others were going to do."

Tyler Hildebrandt, the team's only incoming senior to attend the camp, said that win is one the team will need to remember and work off to be successful this season.

"Any time you beat a big school like that, pull off an upset, you've got to be happy with it," Hildebrandt said. "It showed us what we're capable of, so if we can play like that some more it would be great."

The Bulldogs also beat a 5A team in North Sanpete High School from Mount Pleasant, Utah and lost by a point to Fort Lupton High School, another Colorado high school team making the move from 4A to 3A, like MCHS.

"We would potentially see (Fort Lupton) at state," Hamilton said. "So we kind of got to see if we can make it to state what kind of teams we would play. That was a really tough team."

The camp was the final summer activity for the MCHS team. For now, the focus will turn to fall sports and players will have to keep in basketball shape on their own.

"We need to keep working out and keep trying to stay in shape, be ready for open gym to come and get ready for the season," Cleverly said. "A lot of people do fall sports. People that don't need to still be working out so when the season comes we can hop right into it."

Cleverly plays only basketball at MCHS.

He said he will be shooting every day and try to get team workouts arranged when teammates are available to "keep that basketball mindset."

Hildebrandt plays football for the Bulldogs. He said the combination of sports is not a hindrance to his basketball development.

"Basketball really benefits my football skills," he said. "In the weight room for football, it builds my strength, which helps in the paint for basketball, and basketball develops my quickness and footwork. So, I'll do the work I can for basketball in the fall, but I don't think football slows me down."

Hamilton said if the team continues to work as it has during the summer, the Bulldogs will be a force when the season begins in November.

"It's pretty much about these kids that have worked their tails off all summer long," he said. "It's a great core group that have busted their tails all summer. This was a great way to finish the summer."

Cleverly agreed. Based on the team's improvement over the summer, things are looking up for the Bulldogs, he said.

"Everyone set a goal for themselves this summer that they were going to be there every single time," he said. "I think everyone is sick of not having the best seasons.

“We'll be ready to prove some people wrong when the season starts."

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“Any time you beat a big school like that, pull off an upset, you’ve got to be happy with it. It showed us what we’re capable of, so if we can play like that some more it would be great.”

—Tyler Hildebrandt, incoming Moffat County High School senior, about playing well during a camp at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junctio