Moffat County boys basketball keeps hearts, heads in the game to start season | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County boys basketball keeps hearts, heads in the game to start season

The seniors of the Moffat County High School boys basketball team gather on the MCHS staircase. From left, Torin Reed, Connor Murphy, Connor Etzler, Cale Scranton, manager Trinitie Beckner, Victor Silva, Colby Beaver.

Moffat County High School boys basketball was on the rebound last season, experiencing a big bounce back after two rough years, and the Bulldogs are looking to keep that momentum going as a new winter begins.

Head coach: Eric Hamilton

Hamilton begins his eighth season as the head of the hoops program, a tenure which has seen him take teams to the state level while others have been more of a struggle.

After records of 4-15 and 7-13 in the two prior years, the Dogs had a stronger tally for the 2017-18 schedule at 10-11. Time will tell if the group can repeat or improve on this, though Hamilton has confidence that talent fostered last winter will turn out even greater this year.

He added that the level of intensity among his players has made them more competitive for starting slots.

“There’s no definitive starting five at all,” he said. “They’re all battling for playing time, and that makes practices really good.”

2017-18 highlights

While the Bulldogs had their work cut out for them last year amid the 3A Western Slope League with Coal Ridge, Roaring Fork, Delta and Grand Valley, the early season was one of their best non-conference runs in years, including a total sweep of the Lake County Tournament. Then-senior Brent Cook was the runner-up in the league’s points-per-game count, including a 40-point feat against Rifle, which also earned him All-Conference First Team.

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2018-19 seniors: Colby Beaver, Connor Etzler, Connor Murphy, Torin Reed, Cale Scranton, Victor Silva, manager Trinitie Beckner

The Bulldog playbook will look a tad different this year after seeing off several starters who left as the Class of 2018. The new senior class, however, includes a mix of skill across the board.

Beaver’s specialty last year was getting points beneath the rim, though he’s been working his way outward this season as he aims to compete with Murphy, Scranton and Reed, all of whom proved themselves strong three-point shooters. As for Etzler and Silva, setting up plays and speed are among their strengths this season.

“All the seniors have potential to do big stuff,” Hamilton said.

Key returners: Jerod Chacon, Landen Najera

Najera looms large as the Bulldogs’ tallest returning player — six feet, five inches last year — as well as their strongest rebounder and blocker with 154 and 16, respectively, as well as four double-doubles. With an All-Conference Honorable Mention, he was also right behind Cook in the team totals for points (166) and steals (32).

Fellow junior giant Chacon is also expected to give the Bulldogs more height beneath the bucket as the Dogs are determined to make a statement in second-chance points.

“Landen’s a beast underneath, and Jerod’s physical and tough. Our guards are tall too, so we’re not hurting for height,” Hamilton said.

Early competitions

The Bulldogs will start the season by squaring off with another MoCo team — Montezuma Cortez — Thursday afternoon as they kick off the Centauri High School Mountain Top Classic in La Jara. The opener will be followed by Sargent Friday and Centauri Saturday.

The Montezuma Cortez Panthers were 12-11 last season, as were the 2A Sargent Farmers, while Centauri boys were 9-12 for 2017-18.

Hamilton expects the slew of teams — all of which are much closer to the New Mexico border than Northwest Colorado — should provide a different kind of challenge.

“Officiating will probably be a lot different, and I know they all play a lot together down there, so it should be a good tournament,” he said.

A set of scrimmages the weekend after Thanksgiving in Grand Junction gave the coach his first glimpse of athletes in action, against the hosting Tigers, Glenwood Springs and 3A WSL foe Cedaredge.

Hamilton noted that Glenwood provided the toughest pressure for the practice games, and the Dogs could face them again at the Demons’ own tournament starting Dec. 6.

What it all comes back to is intensity, he said.

“We’re trying a lot of different mixtures, and they really get after each other in practice,” he said. “They’re not best buddies when they’re out there, but it seems to end by the end of practice. This is a fine bunch.”

Moffat County High School boys varsity basketball 2018-19 schedule

Date — Opponent/Event, Location
Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 — Mountain Top Classic, La Jara
Dec. 6 to 8 — Demon Invitational, Glenwood Springs
Dec. 11 — Steamboat Springs, MCHS
Dec. 15 — Rifle, Rifle
Jan. 11 — Gunnison, Gunnison
Jan. 12 — Olathe, Olathe
Jan. 15 — Summit, Frisco
Jan. 18 — Grand Valley, MCHS
Jan. 19 — Cedaredge, MCHS
Jan. 26 — Basalt, MCHS
Feb. 1 — Delta, MCHS
Feb. 2 — Aspen, Aspen
Feb. 8 — Middle Park, Granby
Feb. 9 — Roaring Fork, MCHS
Feb. 14 — Coal Ridge, New Castle
— For full schedule details and updates, visit westernslopeleagueco.org.