Moffat County hoops teams look to stay competitive, keep league mojo alive in road series
The first weekend of competition against 3A Western Slope League foes couldn’t have gone much better for Moffat County High School basketball teams.
Still, that’s just the start of things for MoCo hoopsters as they approach another stretch of conference contention, this time on the road.
The Bulldogs will hit the highway Friday and Saturday to face Grand Valley and Cedaredge, both of which will provide another test of tenacity for the Craig crews.
Conquering the Cardinals
At 7-2, Grand Valley girls hoops rank just slightly ahead of Delta and Moffat County — both 8-3 — in total win percentage, but the Lady Dogs will be their first official league game.
The Cards defeated Olathe 58-41 last week in a non-conference matchup — the two will meet again in February for a true WSL game — but the Parachute team took no prisoners during Tuesday’s 6-117 blowout over their Rifle rivals, which MoCo girls downed 53-29 in December.
While Grand Valley’s leading scorer Jordyn Pittman averages 8.2 per game, Cayden King has been in double-digit points for 10 of the Lady Dogs’ 11 games so far, with she and her teammates adding plenty to the scoreboard during the past weekend’s one-sided games against Gunnison and Olathe.
The last time the two teams faced each other was the fight for third place in the 2018-19 district tournament, which MoCo girls won 47-27.
Grand Valley and MCHS haven’t gone face to face since January 2019, an outing in Craig which the Cardinals won handily 67-48, though both teams were eliminated early in the district rounds.
The two are much closer in records this season, with the Cardinal boys standing at 5-4 compared to the Dogs’ 4-6.
While each of them took a win against Olathe, their only game against other a common opponent also ended in defeat for the pair.
The Cardinals struggled to score for most of their Tuesday game with Rifle, and despite outdoing the Bears 22-19 in the final quarter, Grand Valley took the loss 54-44.
Even so, head coach Steve Maneotis has had boys studying the Cardinals’ tactics via game footage, noting that even in the defeat, the team remains a threat.
Best the Bruins
The following day will be no easier for either Bulldog squad, but besides the energy from recent victories, boys showed last year they could stand against Cedaredge’s style, defeating them twice.
At 3-7, the Bruins have been struggling most of this season, with a 45-33 win against Olathe on Tuesday snapping a five-game losing streak.
Girls, on the other hand, will be seeing pressure from the team currently at the top of the conference rankings.
Earlier this week, the Bruins took a 46-26 W against Olathe — the true league credit game against the Pirates will come at the end of the regular schedule — to move to 8-2 for the best record in the Western Slope.
Last week saw Cedaredge trounce Aspen 58-3, yet the Bruins were on the rebound from tournament play the week before, which included a 35-26 loss to Delta, scheduled to see the rival Panthers again in early February.
The Lady Dogs will be the first official WSL game for Bruins, and it will be a grudge match from last year.
After defeating Cedaredge easily in the regular season, MoCo girls were stunned 30-27 by the Bruins in the district semifinals, failing to move on the championship game for the first time in seven years.
Bruins are lead in scoring by Kammie Henderson (13.3 points per game) and Makayla Kehmeier (10 points per game), with Henderson staying close among MCHS’s King, Coal Ridge’s Taylor Wiescamp and Delta’s Alexa Huff for the most rebounds in the conference.
The current numbers mean little to Loughran, who’s a tad more concerned about keeping his bench full for the weekend.
“We’ve got a lot of girls out sick. We haven’t had a full team all week,” he said. “Every night I’ve had a different girl sick. I play 10 girls, so it may fall heavier on some of them to step it up.”
Though he knows the upcoming series will be crucial, Loughran is also looking at the long run, learning the hard way last season how much opponents will up their game in the entry to the postseason.
“They’re only two games, and they’ve all got to play each other,” he said, referring to Grand Valley and Cedaredge and fellow high-ranking WSL teams Delta and Roaring Fork. “I don’t think it’s do-or-die right now. With winning records, we’re all about the same, and it should be pretty even. It’s too early now, because you don’t know how teams are gonna go up or down. I’ve watched film with both of these two teams and right now I think we’re competitive.”