Moffat County girls clash with Central as hoops schedule resumes
Maybe it was the fact that were coming out of their return from vacation, maybe it was the cold weather outside, but something wasn’t quite right for Moffat County High School girls basketball in their first game of 2020.
MCHS girls were outsized in more ways than one by the 5A Central Warriors of Grand Junction in a 41-38 defeat for the Lady Bulldogs Saturday afternoon.
One of the few home events that won’t feature both hoops teams — boys will host Summit for solo outings Jan. 30 — went by swiftly as the younger girls were bested 37-16 by Central to set up the varsity round.
The recovery from the winter break was apparent from the onset, as MoCo players came out cold on offense, missing shot after shot throughout the first quarter. Warriors weren’t shooting much better, though MCHS coach Jim Loughran said he could tell Central’s chemistry was on point after a trio of games a week earlier at Roosevelt’s Roughrider Shootout, where they went 2-1 in the tournament.
“They’re ahead of us by five games, so I think they had more of a game sense than us,” he said.
After 10 unsuccessful shots, Lady Dogs got on the scoreboard nearly six minutes in after a half-court steal by Jacie Evenson, who put up a fastbreak jumper that didn’t hit net, though teammate Jenna Timmer earned the putback points.
“I just wanted to take care of the ball and not let them steal it back,” Evenson said. “They were definitely very physical.”
Down 6-5 after the opening period, the energy changed in the second quarter with a three-point swish by Emaleigh Papierski, while a big block by Cayden King showed Lady Dogs were back in business on both sides of the ball.
King picked up five more points from there as part of her 10-point day, and another triple by Halle Hamilton put MoCo ahead 17-12 at halftime.
Warriors tied it up early in the third, but a 10-point run for the Lady Dogs compiled by King, Stephenie Swindler, and Amber Salazar gave the home team their greatest lead at 29-19.
In the middle of that hot streak, however, Hamilton rolled her ankle while on defense, coming off the court in pain, benched for the rest of the game.
“This is our year of injuries, and that’s been unfortunate. We’ll deal with it, that’s just part of athletics,” Loughran said, referring the multiple physical issues in recent months, such as Timmer coming back from the summer in a knee brace, and both Reese Weber and Rylie Felten suffering ankle ailments in Steamboat Springs, the latter of whom is already done for the season.
Central’s Mya Murdock closed the quarter with five points as the Warriors came to within three at 31-28 to end the period, and the fourth began with another eight straight points for the opposition until an outside bucket by Swindler slowed the Warriors from really getting on the warpath.
A heavily contested layup for King got the Lady Dogs within a point at 37-36, and though her ability to draw shooting fouls helped her add another couple free throws for the Dogs’ final score, Central used the same tactic with their last points coming from the foul line.
“They’ve probably given us the most competition so far,” King said of the Warriors. “It was a tough one, but I think we all made a good effort.”
Apart from King’s 10, Salazar had seven points, Papierski added six, Hamilton and Swindler five, Timmer three, and Weber two.
“The whole game we just didn’t shoot very well,” Loughran said. “They were forcing a lot of shots, but they played a great defensive game. We were just too individual on offense, we needed to have more of a team offense. When they made a run on us, we should have been able to settle it down. If you run a good offense, you should be able to get something out it.”
Loughran added that a loss by a narrow margin will affect athletes differently than the runaway wins Montrose and Cañon City took in December.
“We’ve been blown out and we’ve blown people out, but I knew this would be a close game,” he said. “I was pleased with their effort, but we’ve got to come out and play together.”
MCHS girls moved to 6-3 for the season, and Bulldogs girls and boys teams will be back at home Jan. 17 and 18 to begin the 3A Western Slope League schedule against Gunnison and Olathe.
“That’ll be a good week to kind of finalize our plays and be ready,” Evenson said.
Loughran doesn’t expect the next pair of games will be nearly as challenging as Central, though the weekend after that will be a different story with away games against Grand Valley and Cedaredge.
“That’ll be a tough weekend, but I’ve told the girls we want to be on the road with tough games. They’re all that way this year,” he said, listing away games with Delta, Basalt and Roaring Fork as other upcoming challenges. “I don’t look at that as a negative, because when you get to the end of the year, you’re not at home, you’re on the road.”
Though regular, official practices weren’t in session for most of Christmas break, an open gym format let players stay in shape.
Before the holiday break, MCHS girls hosted their annual Hoop-a-Thon fundraiser, which brought in $2,200 in donated pledges for the program.
“That was very successful,” Loughran said. “We have a lot of people who continually give to the girls program, and we so appreciate them and their sacrifice for when they donate to us. We work hard to make them proud of us and see that that money’s worth it.”