Moffat County basketball ousts Olathe as both teams move to 2-0 in conference
With one varsity hoops squad keeping the final score too close for comfort and the other barely breaking a sweat Saturday, neither Moffat County High School team can be too upset with the results.
Bulldog basketball teams each finished the weekend at home with a 2-0 record in the 3A Western Slope League, as MCHS girls pounded Olathe 53-15 and boys denied the Pirates a last-second win with a 60-58 finale.
Blow them out of the water
With a 50-point win the night before, Lady Dogs were in a dominant mindset coming into the latter part of the weekend, and Olathe girls’ 58-41 Friday defeat against Grand Valley the same evening wasn’t helping the Pirate confidence.
An 11-7 first quarter with two brief glimpses of an Olathe lead was about the closest the game would be, and a run of 10 points put together by Amber Salazar, Cayden King and Emaleigh Papierski ended the opening half with MoCo girls holding onto a 25-12 advantage.
The Bulldogs shut down Olathe’s shooting in the third period and added another 14 points from the onset as a single jumper by the Pirates dropped to make it 39-14 going into the final stretch.
Trips to the foul line in the fourth amounted to more for MoCo than their visitors as Jenna Timmer and Halle Hamilton sunk some freebies, while only a single free throw by Cheyanne Germann hit the mark for the Pirates.
King led the Lady Dogs with 14 points, with 10 for Salazar, nine for Papierski, six for Hamilton and Swindler, and four each for Timmer and Bree Meats.
Bringing back their presence from beyond the arc, Papierski, Hamilton, and Swindler each earned a three-pointer, while the whole team stayed strong in the low post.
“It started out a little bit rough, but not too much. We really worked it all out,” Meats said.
Plenty of plunder
With their junior varsity comrades running it up against the Pirates in a 61-20 win — boys JV also crunched Gunnison 37-20 Friday in the Craig Middle School gym, while girls JV beat the Cowboys 30-14 and fell 39-21 to Olathe — boys varsity was looking to control the pace of their game and prove Friday night was no fluke.
The 65-61 win over the Cowboys — who still maintain the best win percentage in the conference at 9-2 — was fresh in their minds, and MCHS guys sought to create the same havoc for Olathe, who dropped their Friday night game 59-48 at Grand Valley.
Both sides came out swinging — Bulldogs laced together eight straight points as Landen Najera sent in two quick jump shots, Myles Simpson nabbed a steal for the fastbreak bucket, and Jordan Carlson gained a putback.
At first, Pirate shooting saw them hit more iron than a golfer practicing chipping, but outside shots suddenly started falling to tie it at 10, while Wesley Counts got one in from the field just before the horn to make it 12-10 for the Dogs.
A back-and-forth second period saw Logan Hafey and Chris Maneotis get on the board as well and concluded with a 21-19 Bulldog lead as teams took a breather.
The Dogs doubled their score in a tremendous third quarter as Counts added 10 points alone, with little luck on the other end for Olathe as they trailed 42-29.
However, the Pirates caught some wind in their sails with Damon Sofka, Jose Almanza and Victor Fernandez leading the charge and cutting down the Bulldog little by little before tying it up at 54.
The game physicality took Simpson out of the action as he hit the floor too many times, while Counts was also rattled.
Still, the awareness of MoCo defenders to plant their feet resulted in multiple Olathe charge calls, though Ryan Peck felt the effects going both directions.
“You’ve gotta make sure you’re smart with your fouls,” he said.
With the Pirates ahead at 58-55, coaches Steve Maneotis and Mark Carlson drew on inspiration earlier to get back on track, and a corner three-pointer by Jerod Chacon evened the tally up again.
“Coach Carlson came in and drew up the play they had run for JV, that was great. Jerod had struggled all night, but he hit such a great shot,” Steve Maneotis said. “Every night it’s somebody different for us.”
With 27 seconds left, neither side could afford to slip up, but Peck promptly forced an Olathe foul to go the free throw line much like Najera had less than 24 hours earlier.
“I got the ball by the sidelines, and I turned around and the kid just hit me,” Peck said. “I just made sure I got the ball where he couldn’t reach it.”
And, just like his teammate, Peck delivered two straight baskets under pressure.
A final Pirate shot attempt failed, as the Bulldog stands again erupted with pride and Moffat County coaches breathed a sigh of relief.
“We came through. You always worry coming off a big game the night before like we had, that was an emotional victory for us,” Steve Maneotis said. “You could tell there was kind of a hangover, but we found a way to win.”
Peck said the intensity of the weekend only helped strengthen athletes’ resolve compared to the polarity of last season.
“Last year we didn’t really have any close games. Either we blew someone out or we got blown out,” he said. “The team bonding in these games is really gonna help us in the long run.”
Najera led with 16 points, Counts 15, Carlson 12, Chris Maneotis five, Simpson four, Chacon and Peck three each and two for Hafey.
Onward and upward
The start to the conference slate put Bulldog girls at 8-3 and boys at 4-6 overall, though both groups know the schedule will only get more trying.
Spending upcoming weekend on the road, MCHS teams will face Grand Valley Jan. 24 and Cedaredge the following day.
The two teams will be among the biggest challenges for girls in particular, both of which edge out Lady Dogs in the league rankings in total win percentage, and coach Jim Loughran has let players know some tough tests are coming.
Alternately, MCHS boys are sandwiched right between the Cardinals and the Bruins in the standings for total wins, and the Craig crew knows they’ll be seeing two opponents eager to move up at their expense.
Coach Maneotis noted that the team will work on improving turnovers and upping their full-court pressure.
“Grand Valley’s got great guards and they’ll be a challenge and Cedaredge, I don’t know a whole lot about yet, but we’ll continue to be who we are and play our game,” he said.
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