Moffat County girls hoops ready to push forward
A new coach and a new program last year saw some growing pains for Moffat County High School girls basketball, but with athletes more settled into the system, this season is looking positive.
Lady Bulldogs return to the court for competition this week, starting their schedule with three straight days at Meeker’s White River Electric Cowboy Shootout beginning Thursday.
Girls coach Jim Loughran opted out of joining the boys team at the Centauri Mountain Top Classic, which both squads attended last December.
The shorter travel combined with what’s likely to be good opposition in Meeker —seeing Mancos in the first round — have Loughran more easygoing about the opening week.
“It’ll be a good one for us to start, since we’re a young team,” he said, adding the Cowboys’ tourney will be a good lead-in for the Glenwood Springs event the week after that.
Players were at work well before the official Nov. 18, Loughran said, mostly on fundamental skills. However, Thanksgiving proved somewhat of a hurdle.
“We didn’t want to start doing anything else until we felt our fundamentals were good,” he said. “It’s been kind of hard the last week with vacation. We’ve got kids going everywhere, we have a couple hurt. It’s slowed us down.”
Though he’s spent many years with Bulldog sports, Loughran’s return to the program last year — replacing Kenley Nebeker — was a little shakier than he would have liked.
“This year it feels more like my team,” he said. “Last year, I came in late and had to do the best I could.”
The final record for the season was 17-6, with the Dogs taking their first loss in six years at the district level. High rankings kept them in the playoffs, falling in the first round to University at Eaton during the regional part of the brackets.
The Bulldogs graduated an abundance of hoops seniors earlier this year, though the girls team retains plenty of talent, with Jenna Timmer, Stephenie Swindler and Makayla Martinez the lone upperclassmen.
Timmer and Swindler served as a forward and guard, respectively, last year, each strong scorers and defenders. Timmer is the leading rebounder for returning Bulldog varsity players with 76 during the regular season, while Swindler posted 23 steals.
In her freshman season, Halle Hamilton led the Lady Dogs in total points last year, and she’s the top three-point shooter in the 3A Western Slope League returning for this winter, also the MoCo statistical leader for the 2018-19 season in assists and steals as she comes back for sophomore year.
Junior Emaleigh Papierski kept things close in most categories with Hamilton in the past year, the most accurate free throw shooter returning for a new season as well as the best returning blocker.
While half the roster consisted of the Class of 2019 last winter, freshmen, sophomores and juniors will be battling it out for starting spots.
“The good thing last year was I had a lot of seniors who played well together, and they carried us,” Loughran said. “This year will be a lot different.”
Date — Opponent/Event, Home/Away; JV/Varsity Times
Dec. 5 to 7 — Meeker Tournament, Away; TBD
Dec. 12 to 14 — Glenwood Springs Tournament, Away; TBD
Dec. 17 — Steamboat Springs; Away; 4:30/6 p.m.
Dec. 19 — Rifle, Home; 3/6 p.m.
Jan. 11 — Grand Junction Central, Home; 11/12:30 p.m.
Jan. 17 — Gunnison, Home; 3/4:30 p.m.
Jan. 18 — Olathe, Home; 11 a.m./2 p.m.
Jan. 24 — Grand Valley, Away; 4:30/6 p.m.
Jan. 25 — Cedaredge, Away; 11 a.m./2 p.m.
Feb. 1 — Basalt, Away; 3/6 p.m.
Feb. 7 — Delta, Away; 3/6 p.m.
Feb. 8 — Aspen, Home; 11:30 a.m./3:30 p.m.
Feb. 13 — Middle Park, Home; 4:30/6 p.m.
Feb. 15 — Roaring Fork, Away; 1/2:30 p.m.
Feb. 20 — Coal Ridge, Home; 3/6 p.m.
Feb. 28, 29 — Districts Tournament, TBD
Dec. 9 — Grand Junction, Away; 4 p.m.
Dec. 10 — Battle Mountain, Home; 4 p.m.
Dec. 14 — Basalt Tournament, Away; TBD
Dec. 16 — Soroco; Away; 7 p.m.
Jan. 7 — Middle Park, Home; 4 p.m.
Jan. 11 — Grand Junction Central, Home; 11 a.m.
Jan. 15 — Rifle, Home; 5 p.m.
Jan. 25 — Battle Mountain, Away; 11 a.m.
Jan. 27 — Soroco, Home; 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 1 — MCHS Tournament, Home; TBD
Feb. 3 — Middle Park, Away; 4 p.m.
Feb. 17 — Rifle, Away; 5 p.m.