Moffat County girls win playoff rematch, 73-54, move on to state
Bulldog boys end season with 57-55 loss to Jefferson Academy
A tsunami of emotion overtook all the Moffat County High School varsity basketball players this past weekend but not all for the same reason.
The MCHS girls hoops team is bound for the Great 8 round of the 3A CHSAA State Playoffs after claiming a regional championship with a 73-54 win against the Lady Buffaloes of Bishop Machebeuf Saturday in the MCHS gym.
Simply put, a great game for the girls
The Lady Bulldogs couldn’t contain their excitement in the fourth quarter of the game, as the trip to Golden’s Colorado School of Mines for the final stop of the postseason was all but a certainty following a match that they led in its entirety. Their greatest advantage was 60-37, with a three-pointer by Katelyn Peroulis starting out the final period.
MCHS junior Morgan Lawton has anticipated the chance to move beyond the Sweet 16 all season, as the team moves its furthest along the 3A playoff brackets since becoming part of the division in 2012.
A win with a side of vengeance was even sweeter — the girls of Bishop Machebeuf handed Moffat County a 54-48 overtime defeat last year that Lawton still hasn’t forgotten.
“It feels awesome to beat them by that much and to play like we did, it’s awesome, amazing,” she said. “I think we had a more overwhelming team sense — we didn’t fight over who scored, and we played to our full potential. We didn’t do anything wrong.”
Lawton shattered her own personal record — as well as the team’s single game best for the season — with 26 points. Teammate Josey King netted five threes as part of her 18-point total, while Leah Camilletti had 11.
Peroulis finished with six, Kayla Pinnt four, Katia Voloshin three, Shayna Allen two and Mattie Jo Duzik one.
Charli Earle also put in two points late in the game, coming back from an elbow to the stomach at the close of the first half that had her return looking iffy.
MCHS girls shot 24 for 49, 19 for 30 on free throws, with Leah Camilletti six for six. The Buffaloes were 21 for 50 overall, sinking nine out of 15 foul shots.
Jonni Smith led Bishop Machebeuf in scoring with 19 points, followed by Torie Huddleston with 13, Kate Moran Keara O’Toole each taking eight. Paige Wood, Myranda Weakland and Felicia Hernandez all had two points apiece.
Later in the day, as the MCHS girls were given their accolades, including cutting down the net from their hoop, one member of the squad had a tough time smiling with the rest of her teammates.
While pleased with her own win, Alex Hamilton still had her mind on the fact that her older brother and father won’t be playing alongside her in the coming week.
A bittersweet 16 for the boys
As its third quarter ended, it looked entirely probable, even likely, that the Moffat County boys basketball team would see another game.
Dylan Kincade had just sunk a long ball right at the buzzer that had the Bulldogs up, 47-42, and nearly everyone in the bleachers on their feet screaming.
But, the up-and-down nature of the game reared its ugly head, as MCHS boys lost, 57-55, following a fourth quarter in which buckets were few for the home team and the Jefferson Academy Jaguars claimed their spot in the next segment of the state tourney.
Out of all six games held in the MCHS gym Friday and Saturday, none were so evenly matched as Moffat County and Jefferson, both teams keeping their play and the score tight in the first quarter, Craig’s pride and joy up, 13-10.
The rest of the second half didn’t see fortune smile on the Bulldogs — Tyler Davis took a spill midway through the second quarter, the resulting sprained ankle keeping him out as the team fought their way back from the 12-point run with which the Jags started the period, Jefferson leading, 30-26, as halftime began.
Davis took the court again in the third, the group getting on a roll with 10 unanswered points to go into the last leg of the game.
Both sides relied on fouls to slow down the clock, the Bulldogs four for six from the line in the closing quarter and Jefferson five for seven, but threes from Taylor Teets and Andrew Ullman helped keep the Jaguars in front.
A quick layup by Matt Hamilton brought Moffat County to within two with about seven seconds remaining, but all Jefferson had to do was keep the ball.
And, so they did.
As the buzzer sounded, Davis crumpled to the floor beneath the home basket, the MCHS senior less concerned about his heavily wrapped limb than the reality of being finished with high school hoops sooner than expected.
“He’s all heart,” coach Eric Hamilton said quietly afterward, a sentiment he expanded to his whole team. “They tried so hard to win that and put in everything they got. I’m really proud of those guys. All we can do is hold our heads up high.”
Both groups had 38 total shots, Moffat County hitting 15 and Jefferson 18. The Bulldogs were 24 for 33 on free throws, Jefferson 13 out of 22.
Jefferson had four shooters hit double digits — Teets (13), Joe Rodriguez (12), Joe Raff and Ullman (10) — but Kincade had the best individual scoring of the game with 18 points, followed by Denton Taylor with 12, Joe Camilletti nine, Matt Hamilton seven, Dusty Taylor six and Keenan Hildebrandt three.
Hildebrandt, who grabbed 24 points in the team’s 83-58 win Friday against Denver School of Science & Technology Stapleton, remained stoic after the Saturday game.
“I’m sad it’s over, but I’m proud of what we accomplished,” he said.
Coach Hamilton said he looks forward to next season with many skilled underclassmen ready to fill the slots vacated by seniors Davis, Joe Camilletti, Denton Taylor and his son, Matt.
But, for now he’s content to sit in the stands purely as a parent to watch his daughter at state.
“We’re gonna be there cheering on those girls,” he said.
All the way
The MCHS girls are the only team in the Western Slope League to make it to the Great 8, the possibility of meeting rival Olathe for a grudge match of their district showdown down the road now gone, with the Pirates knocked out of the running by Centauri.
The Lady Dogs will meet the Lutheran Lions, of Parker, at 4 p.m. Thursday at Colorado School of Mines.
Lutheran girls are seeded third in the state tourney, boasting a 23-1 season, their only defeat a 55-54 overtime loss to No. 4 Manitou Springs back in January.
Coach Sam McLeod said the team’s showing at regionals — which also included Friday’s 67-53 conquest of Buena Vista — is an indicator that they’re ready to face anything.
“We’ve been steadily building to this point, and that’s our peak so far, and hopefully we’ll peak a lot more going into the bigger games,” he said.
Getting all the way to the finals could mean a bout with undefeated schools Sterling or Pagosa Springs — Nos. 1 and 2 in 3A — but when it comes to who’s on the opposite side of the floor, whatever will be will be, McLeod said.
“Our goal isn’t to go play at the state tournament, it’s to go win the state tournament,” he said.
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