Moffat County basketball falls to Colorado Springs Christian in state Final 4
DENVER — Moffat County High School girls basketball’s time at the state tournament hasn’t yet hit its final stop, but the title of top 3A team in Colorado is no longer in the cards.
MCHS girls lost 51-30 against the Lions of Colorado Springs Christian School in Friday’s Final 4 game at University of Denver.
The Lady Bulldogs’ first time at the state semifinal level since 2006 began as almost the exact opposite of their Thursday Great 8 game against Kent Denver.
Whereas Moffat County led the Sun Devils 25-2 at halftime a day earlier, they trailed the Lions 32-4 at intermission, which included a 13-0 first quarter.
CSCS hit three triples in the first period and five more in the second to gain their comfortable.
“They shot lights out, we didn’t defend the three very well, and we’ve got to be better,” coach Kenley Nebeker said. “Proud of my girls. They kept battling, kept fighting.”
The deficit going into the third quarter was not insurmountable, but the Lions weren’t taking too many chances, with Rachel Ingram and Katie Hildenbrand nailing two more three-pointers for an even 10 on the day for the team.
Still, the action was more even in the second half with an 11-8 third quarter as Jana Camilletti, Brooke Gumber and Quinn Pinnt kept charging away at the rim to make a dent in the score.
Tough play also meant some hard spills, with Jaci McDiffett coming off the court nursing a rolled ankle.
“We were all pretty frustrated in that first half,” she said, adding that she and her teammates were still able to shake it off and press forward.
Despite starting the fourth quarter with their greatest point differential of the season at 45-12, the final eight minutes were easily the best for the Bulldogs, and CSCS’s efforts to kill time met with resistance from Moffat County on both ends.
Emaleigh Papierski hit a layup and promptly followed it with her first varsity three-pointer of the season, while Kinlie Brennise nailed back-to-back threes.
After being outpaced much of the game, Jaidyn Steele earned a crucial steal at half-court, missing the fastbreak bucket, but McDiffett was right there with the make on the rebound, keeping the Bulldog bench electric as they continued to cheer for their squad with a “never say die” attitude.
An outside swish by Madie Weber got the Lady Dogs to 30 in the last points of the game.
Camilletti led in points with nine, Papierski and Brennise had six each, Weber three, and Gumber, Pinnt and McDiffett all put two on the board.
Following the buzzer, the weary and emotionally drained MCHS girls joined their opponents at center court for a post-game prayer.
Steele and Brennise said if they and their teammates had to lose, they would do it gracefully.
“Their shots were falling and they played good defense. We played our best, and that’s all we can do,” Brennise said.
MCHS girls have one last game with a consolation match at noon Saturday. Before CSCS battles it out with St. Mary’s Academy — the Lions the only team to beat the Pirates at all this season — for the state title, the No. 8 Bulldogs will switch to their white home jerseys as they meet Lamar, the No. 10 Savages falling 48-36 to St. Mary’s Friday night.
Though a championship won’t be happening this year, Nebeker said the amount of talent returning next season fills him with confidence for the 2018-19 season.
“We’ve just got a little ways to go, and we’ll be in the big dance. Just got to improve a little bit more as a team,” Nebeker said.
It was one of the longest days Moffat County High School volleyball players have experienced this season, but by the end of Saturday, the effort was worth it all.