Moffat County basketball ready to hit the road hard for regional rounds |

Moffat County basketball ready to hit the road hard for regional rounds

Moffat County High School girls basketball have hands over hearts the night before Valentine's Day.
Andy Bockelman

Though it’s a different route than they’ve taken in recent years, the Moffat County High School girls basketball team looks to make a statement in their latest entry into the postseason.

Colorado High School Activities Association released the brackets Sunday for the 3A hoops regional rounds with the top 32 teams in the state moving on for at least one more weekend of action.

MoCo girls rank right in the middle of the standings, seeded 17th overall with a record of 12-8.

With that placement, the Lady Bulldogs will make the trip to Colorado Springs for the opening round of the tournament, with St. Mary’s High School hosting games between Moffat County and Jefferson Academy.

• Moffat County, 12-8 overall, 17th seed — 6th place in Western Slope League

The Craig crew ended their regular season placed sixth in their conference, traveling to Grand Valley for the first portion of the district tourney, falling 50-34 to the Cardinals to prematurely end their run.

Grand Valley went on to defeat Cedaredge 39-29 in the district semifinals before taking a 43-37 loss to defending champion Delta for the district title.

At 19-3 and fourth in seeding, Delta will be the lone Western Slope school with hosting duties for the Round of 32, with five other WSL teams spread around the state, though No. 20 Roaring Fork could see the Panthers with a win over 13 seed Platte Valley.

While No. 15 Grand Valley sees 18 seed Brush hosted by The Academy and 28 Coal Ridge faces seven seed Lutheran to start things off, Cedaredge finished second in conference rankings and third in the district picture, seeded 14th and facing No. 19 SkyView Academy in the first round hosted by No. 3 University.

Originally, the Lady Bulldogs would have been seeded 19th based on Ratings Percentage Index standings, though a rule against pairing teams in the same league in the first regional game forced CHSAA to shift things around, which was the case with more than one team.

Throughout their season, MCHS girls have averaged 48.7 points per game, led in scoring by Cayden King, Halle Hamilton and Emaleigh Papierski.

Hamilton and Papierski have been the team’s most productive three-point shooters, while King and Papierski have been the best rebounders and Hamilton the best in assists.

Stephenie Swindler leads the team in steals, and King stands as the best in blocks.

Though the close of the regular season saw defeats to Roaring Fork and Coal Ridge before the abrupt ending in Grand Valley, the losses have served their purpose in showing players where they can improve, MCHS head coach Jim Loughran said.

“I think we need to develop some better chemistry as a group, and I think we can do that. We’ve had a hard four games, but now it’s encouraging to see where we can improve this late in the season and come away with something positive,” he said.

• Jefferson Academy, 17-5 overall, 16th seed — 2nd place in Metro League

Broomfield’s Jefferson Academy took only loss during conference play in the Metro League, falling to league champion Lutheran.

The Jaguars’ hopes of rematching the Lions in the district round fell apart quickly when Jefferson lost to Colorado Academy only to rebound with wins over SkyView and Peak to Peak to place fifth in the district.

Conversely, Lutheran was upset 35-34 by Faith Christian in districts, with the Eagles securing home court for regionals with a district championship over Kent Denver, while Lutheran placed third in districts with a regional round guaranteed with a 20-2 record.

Jefferson may have slid down the RPI, but still remain a challenging opponent for the Lady Bulldogs.

The Jaguars’ scoring for the season is an average of 49.4 per game, led by Rachel Moreno with 208 points during the regular schedule, as well as 32 triples as the group’s best outside shooter and the team leader in takeaways.

Fellow Jefferson senior Brooklynn Kirkpatrick is their most reliable rebounder, while Lily Thimsen leads in assists.

While the Bulldogs stack up well enough in statistics against the Jaguars, it’s anyone’s guess before tipoff exactly how the two teams would do in competition, but the two do share at least two foes in common.

Jefferson began their season with a 52-48 loss to Grand Valley, against whom the Bulldogs were 1-1 this season with a 44-34 win preceding the district loss.

Early in the season in tournament play in Glenwood Springs, Lady Dogs took a 67-39 victory against Peak to Peak, and while the Jags went 2-0 against the Lafayette school it was by narrower margins of 46-41 in the regular season and 48-24 at districts.

“We kind of know a little bit about that league but not too much,” Loughran said. “We’re pretty well-matched, so it should be a pretty good

• St. Mary’s, 21-1 overall, 1st seed — 1st place in Tri-Peaks League

The winner between MCHS and Jefferson Academy will have little time to celebrate getting past the first part of regionals, with their Saturday game almost certainly putting them up against the top team in the state.

Ending their winters as the state champion the past two seasons, the Pirates remain as much a perennial powerhouse as ever with a solid sweep of the Tri-Peaks League followed by a shark-like run through the district round with wins of 77-21, 65-12 and 74-38 an indicator of why the team’s points per game total is 76.4, with star player Josephine Howery the highest scorer in the state for 3A schools.

Though their record saw its lone blemish back in December with a defeat to Cherry Creek — leaving The Academy as the only undefeated team so far this season — St. Mary’s will clearly be the team to beat for everyone in the postseason.

Seeded 32nd, Brighton’s Eagle Ridge Academy will have the daunting task of facing the Pirates in the opening round. At 12-9, the Warriors finished as runners-up of the 2A/3A Confluence League before going on to stun Riverdale Ridge with a 45-43 win for the district title.

Low RPI standings almost kept Eagle Ridge out of the playoffs altogether, but they’ll come out fighting against St. Mary’s nonetheless.

Loughran is hardly hoping for a miracle of a 32 team beating the top seed, though the idea of competing against an elite program is one he expects will only benefit his younger players.

“I want them to see what it’s like to play in the regional tournament and to see what number one is like and what kind of talent they have,” he said. “You don’t want to fear them; you respect them.”

It was only a few years ago that the MCHS girls squad moved past regionals only to be paired with No. 1 Kent Denver with the eighth-seeded Bulldogs taking the upset 44-32 to get into the 2018 Final Four.

Still, Loughran knows that getting to Saturday’s Sweet 16 begins with moving past the Jaguars.

“It’s kind of hard knowing that we didn’t go though districts to get there, but the RPI made it available for us to do this, so we’re not backing down in any way,” he said.

2020 CHSAA Girls Basketball State Tournaments Class 3A

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