Moffat County basketball has bang-up games with Basalt
With foes who rank right at the bottom of the 3A Western Slope League, Moffat County High School basketball teams may have been expecting a breezy set of games Saturday. That wasn’t quite the case, but Bulldogs kept working at it together against opponents who were hungrier than ever for victories.
MCHS swept Basalt with home wins at both varsity and JV levels as MoCo girls wrangled the Lady Longhorns 65-40 and boys fought their way to a 62-55 W.
JV wins of 40-20 for girls and 50-34 for boys set the tone, but the journey to 5-0 within conference play was a slower start than the varsity Lady Dogs might have liked, and Basalt stayed well within step of their hosts in a 16-10 first quarter.
Moffat Count girls stayed in the lead for nearly the full match, yet a tenacity from the visiting team — whom Bulldogs have beaten 12 straight times since dropping to 3A in 2012 — had the white and blue jerseys a little rattled.
The Longhorns’ game the night before saw them leading Cedaredge 31-21 heading into the final quarter before the Bruins finished the round 20-5 to hand Basalt the 41-36 loss.
Lady Dogs made their move sooner to ensure the win.
A seven-point run by Halle Hamilton started the second period, while Tiffany Hildebrandt, Madie Weber and Stephenie Swindler peppered in field goals late in the half to complement the defensive shutdown happening on the other side of the floor, Moffat in front 35-15 at the break.
As part of a 16-point game, Hildy repeatedly found herself in the low post making plays in the third quarter, though she had to come off the floor temporarily, nursing an ankle injury. While she was able to rotate back in, Quinn Pinnt wasn’t so lucky, aggravating her ACL and meniscus issues within moments of the opening tipoff to ride the bench the rest of the day.
To top it off, an aggressive Longhorn defense reached a boil near the end of the game, as Reese Weber took one on the chin quite literally to go to the free throw line.
All told, Kinlie Brennise followed Hildy in scoring with 14 points and Halle Hamilton 13, the team’s two go-to snipers combining for a trio of three-pointers, one of the few elements Basalt led for the day with five successful outside shots.
“I think sometimes we underestimate some of the teams that come in here,” Brennise said. “I don’t think we were expecting what they had, but they did what they had to do.”
Between some shaky shooting for the Lady Dogs and a high amount of turnovers caused by the Longhorns, coach Jim Loughran was alert but not worried.
“Girls played well, but we couldn’t quite connect the way we needed,” he said. “We were trying to do some things different tonight, but a win’s a win. We really need to transition better and run a lot tougher defense.”
While MCHS girls had trouble taking control early on, Bulldog boys’ first eight minutes were pure domination against the team they topped in double overtime last season.
Lengthy jumpers by Jerod Chacon, Connor Murphy and Jordan Carlson combined with rim attacks by Connor Etzler, Colby Beaver and Landen Najera got the MoCo mojo moving early, interrupted only by a three-pointer by Basalt’s Jake Reardon as the Dogs led 22-3 until five rapid points by Longhorn Trevor Reuss closed the period.
“That’s really the best quarter we’ve played all season. Everything was just perfect,” coach Eric Hamilton said. “Then we had a big letdown in the second. I’d love to have four quarters like the first.”
Eight straight points by Basalt began the second quarter to keep Moffat guys humble, but they would maintain the lead the rest of the day, regaining their footing with a nine-point streak by Beaver, Carlson and Chacon.
The run would have been 11 as a shot by Chacon slowly bobbled into the net, only for an overeager Beaver, looking for a rebound, to get called for basket interference.
The 35-23 halftime advantage was whittled down to a five-point margin by the time the third quarter ended 42-37, and the Longhorns were at their closest as they brought it to 50-47.
As Moffat kept after it, Basalt found themselves the recipients of favorable calls as both Chacon and Najera received charging fouls beneath the Bulldog bucket, with Longhorns again getting it within three at 57-54 with less than two minutes on the clock.
The residents of the Dog House let Basalt’s late burst of adrenaline work against them as they drew fouls of their own, with foul shots from Beaver, Murphy and Cale Scranton keeping them ahead in the final stretch.
Beaver racked up 16 points, with 14 for Najera, and 10 each for Chacon and Carlson.
Coach Hamilton pointed to freshmen Carlson and Ryan Peck for being difference-makers during a day when the group was short Torin Reed and Wesley Counts.
“Those young guys have really stepped up,” he said.
MCHS boys moved to 2-3 in WSL play, as well as 4-10 overall, and keeping the energy of back-to-back conference wins will be key for their next game.
Bulldog teams host Delta Feb. 1, and both male and female Panthers stand to be some of the toughest competition yet.
“Delta is super-tough, huge and well-coached,” Eric Hamilton said. “We’ve got a good scouting report and we’ve just got to prepare and take care of home court. I’m sure the crowd that night will be awesome.”
As of Saturday, Delta boys and girls teams were undefeated within the league with boys 9-4 overall and girls 12-1.
And, while a win for MoCo boys would shake up the standings, 11-3 Lady Bulldogs will be the favorite to retake their Western Slope title should they defeat the Panthers.
“We just need to play as a team, keep each other up,” Brennise said. “Coach is doing a great job, we’re practicing hard. Things will come together as long as we work hard.”
Emaleigh Papierski concurred, adding that mentality will be a big part of it.
“We’ve gotta keep playing how we’ve been playing it. We can’t let it get into our heads that it’s Delta,” she said. “We can’t expect anything different from any teams.”
When in doubt, stick to the animal kingdom, blockbuster movies and children’s literature. The winners of the 20th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous were named Saturday evening to conclude the yearly festival that sees tree stumps become works of art in a matter of four days.