Moffat County varsity hoops preps for league games; C-Teams sweep Rifle | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County varsity hoops preps for league games; C-Teams sweep Rifle

Moffat County High School's Spencer Najera drives to the lane early in a C-Team game against RIfle.
Andy Bockelman

After a lengthy wait for hoops fans, Moffat County High School basketball embarks on the latest stage of the season with 3A Western Slope League play beginning the weekend.

MCHS teams host Gunnison Friday and Olathe Saturday as the conference schedule tips off for the Bulldogs.

Friday night shootout

The Dogs’ games against Gunnison will be an unusual schedule to accommodate the Cowboys’ lengthy travel, with Craig and Gunnison the northern and southern extremes of 3A WSL schools and the Cowboys scheduled to meet Coal Ridge the following day.

Games start with girls junior varsity at 4:30 p.m. in the MCHS gym, 900 Finley Lane, and boys JV will compete simultaneously in the Craig Middle School gym, 915 Yampa Ave.

Girls varsity gets going on the MoCo court at 6 p.m., while boys varsity starts at 7:30 p.m.

With snowy conditions expected most of Friday, games are weather-pending.

At 2-6, MCHS boys will have their work cut out for them against the 8-1 Cowboys, whose only loss this season was a 61-54 defeat in overtime against University.

With the best win percentage in the conference so far, the Cowboys came out strong in their first league game, trouncing Roaring Fork 74-49 on Jan. 10 in their biggest margin of victory so far.

Though the early season saw struggles for Bulldog boys, their 69-29 W against Sargent started the winter well for them, while a 58-55 heartbreaker against rival Steamboat Springs indicated their ability to keep it close.

MCHS girls are less likely to see pushback from Gunnison, a team yet to experience victory this season, with the 6-3 Lady Bulldogs currently third in the league in total win percentage.

Gunnison girls’ conference starter against Roaring Fork saw them fall 70-20, and the Lady Cowboys’ closest contest so far has been a 45-25 loss to Florence.

Bear River Young Life will host a Fifth Quarter event following Friday’s games, with skating and food for students at Moffat County Ice Arena at Loudy-Simpson Park, 600 S. Ranney St.

Admission is $5 with skate rental and $3 for those who bring their own gear.

Outlast Olathe

Saturday games begin at 11 a.m. with girls JV, boys JV at 12:30 p.m., girls varsity at 2 and boys varsity at 3:30 p.m.

Olathe teams will be coming off Friday evening road games against Grand Valley before seeing the Bulldogs, though both Pirate squads enter league play at 2-6 to rank lowly in the WSL.

Games this week against Rangely had mixed results for the two, with girls taking a narrow 42-38 loss to the Panthers and boys leading Rangely most of the night — including a 14-1 second quarter in their favor — on the way to a 58-34 triumph.

Though their Friday games against the Cardinals will be their first official conference events, Olathe had a preview of the league with a December matchup against Delta, with a sweep going against them as boys lost 71-29 and girls 57-16.

Solid C-Team results

For MCHS’s younger players, the second half of the season has already commenced this week.

Last week’s games against Middle Park were cancelled, but Wednesday saw Bulldog C-Teams each take a win against Rifle.

The Bears struck first against MoCo girls, but it was the last points they’d put up in the first half as Lady Bulldogs went on a 20-point run.

The home group ended the game 45-7, though coach Shay Steffan noted that Rifle had circumstances working against them with only five players able to suit up for the match.

“They had a strong week of practice and all of our girls are healthy right now, so that really helped their confidence,” she said.

Even when they have a clear advantage, Steffan said she and fellow coaches don’t want players to get too presumptuous.

“We don’t want girls going into it just expecting to win because you never know what will happen,” she said.

The competition was a contrast from Jan. 11’s game against Central as Moffat County C-Team played the Warriors’ JV group.

While the one-sided girls game went for two halfs with a running clock rather than the usual four quarters, the time format was back to normal for MCHS boys’ C game, which was far closer but still a Bulldog win at 44-39.

A highly physical effort by players especially came together in the final minutes as they pulled ahead of the Bears with play-making seeing success.

“They started off slow, but they came together once we started passing the ball and moving it around,” said coach Stefan Ridgeway. “The offense got it done, they played hard on defense, and it all worked out.”

Ridgeway said he expects the remainder of the season will be smoother for all levels after holiday break as preparation remains steady.

“Practices have been great. We’ve really been seeing a difference, and they’re not as worried about their grades now,” he said. “It’s a lot more fun for them now and they can focus on the rest of the season.”