Moffat County basketball bedevils No. 1 Kent Denver to push into state Final 4
DENVER — Moffat County High School basketball’s opposition may as well have been at Kmart Thursday afternoon, because the Lady Bulldogs were offering a very different kind of blue light special.
MCHS put every other school in the brackets on alert when the No. 8-seeded hoopsters had a divine round in the CHSAA Great 8 against the top-ranked 3A team, Kent Denver, beating the Sun Devils 44-32 to secure a spot in Friday’s Final 4.
If they were the underdogs going in, MCHS certainly didn’t appear that way on the floor of University of Denver’s Hamilton Gym, leading the entire game, starting with steals by Quinn Pinnt and Jana Camilletti and free throws by Brooke Gumber and Jaci McDiffett.
A bucket by Sophia Reynolds got Kent on the board at 3-2, but it was the last points they’d have in both the first quarter and first half altogether.
A 24-point run by the Lady Bulldogs lasted into the third period as Moffat County kept the Sun Devils cold in their shooting and kept plugging away at their own basket.
The MCHS band, bussed in by Tony St. John, bolstered the blue and white spirits with renditions of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “The Impression That I Get” — appropriate since Moffat County never had to knock on wood — and Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration,” also fitting for obvious reasons.
“It’s so great to be able to come down here for this,” said band leader Olivia Neece.
Despite being on the wrong side of a 25-2 first half, Kent cracked the code to the Bulldog defense in the second, trailing only 34-15 at the end of the third quarter, but their comeback efforts couldn’t contend with Moffat County’s willingness to fight to the finish.
“We came in really, really strong, didn’t quite have enough energy in the third, but we really picked it up after that,” Pinnt said.
Lady Dogs’ tenacity getting to the hoop was matched by the Sun Devils’ need to slow them down, which amounted to Moffat County girls repeatedly going to the foul line, gaining eight of their 10 fourth quarter points off free throws.
Emaleigh Papierski hit the final FT of the day, with MCHS fans chanting, “She’s a freshman!” to taunt Kent players, who were too far behind to worry about lowerclassmen status.
Likewise, Papierski was “too in the zone” to hear the commentary.
“I was nervous at first today, but after the first run down the court I felt fine,” Papierski said. “It was such a great experience.”
Gumber led the Bulldogs in scoring with 12 points, Tiffany Hildebrandt had 10, as did Camilletti, including one three-pointer, with Jaidyn Steele also hitting one from outside. McDiffett scored four, Madie Weber three, and Pinnt and Papierski each had one free throw.
Coach Kenley Nebeker said the performance was an example of players playing to their high postseason potential after being halted in the Sweet 16 last season. The difference was between being “Western Slope great” and “Colorado great,” giving the extra effort needed against the best the state has to offer.
“The girls have worked their tails off all season to be Colorado great,” he said.
MCHS, 20-5, will face 22-3 Colorado Springs Christian, ranked fourth, after the Lions defeated Centauri 52-37. The game at 4 p.m. Friday will be the first time anyone on the current Moffat County roster has been to the Final 4.
The last time the MCHS girls team made it to the state semifinals was 2006.
“We just have to keep our energy up. I really think we can do it,” Kinlie Brennise said. “We’ve got to start strong and be able to finish.”
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