Postseason power: Moffat County basketball bests Bishop Machebeuf to head to Sweet 16 showdown
Now’s the time for Moffat County High School girls basketball to show their most competitive, cutthroat side, and Lady Bulldogs pulled no punches Friday as the 3A CHSAA State Championships began.
MCHS, seeded eighth in the playoffs, won 48-32 against the 25th-seeded Bishop Machebeuf Buffaloes on their home court in the Round of 32 to kick off the playoffs.
Staying buff against the Buffs
Moffat County led their former playoff foes from the get-go, as Bishop Machebeuf won the tipoff, only for an early steal by Quinn Pinnt to get it right back for the white and blue, one of many turnovers she’d cause throughout the night along with Madie Weber and Jaidyn Steele.
A strong defensive effort began immediately, and the result was little points on either end as each side disrupted the other beneath the rim, including the Buffaloes’ Adet Mabeny, the 3A Metro League’s leader in blocks, keeping the Bulldogs at bay, while MoCo’s Brooke Gumber did the same.
A 9-2 lead after the first quarter progressed to a 21-14 halftime advantage, and the Bulldogs’ second quarter points were exclusively from free throws by Jana Camilletti, Tiffany Hildebrandt and Jaci McDiffett.
McDiffett came out fierce after the break with a mix of long jumpers and precise post plays.
“I feel like I played a lot better than I have the last couple weeks. It felt good to play well and really good to play as a team,” she said.
A 34-20 total at the end of the third quarter kept the Lady Dogs motivated to keep improving, putting up 14 points in the fourth as coach Kenley Nebeker cycled in more of his bench.
“We’re playing with such energy right now, when we bring it on D, I don’t know what teams are supposed to do,” Nebeker said. “It’s gonna take a pretty dang good team to score on that.”
Camilletti led Moffat County girls in points with 10, McDiffett and Weber nine each, Gumber eight, Hildebrandt six, Emaleigh Papierski three and Stephenie Swindler one.
Mabeny had 15 points for the Buffs, with she and teammate Paige Wood each hitting a single three-pointer. Wood had five total, Denise Perez seven, Edna Gaim four and Mareena Womack with one.
Machebeuf coach Brittany Imig noted she took pride in her players’ ability to frequently disrupt the Moffat County press in what would ultimately be the close of their season.
“It was a tough battle, but we had four seniors who got a good chance to play in the last four minutes of their careers,” she said.
MCHS will face another frequent playoff opponent at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Sweet 16 game against the Lutheran Lions of Parker.
Lutheran, seeded ninth in the playoffs, clinched its next game with a 56-39 win against Westminster’s The Academy.
The Lions held a 34-22 advantage at halftime, though the No. 24 Wildcats didn’t quit. A physical second half began with Lutheran’s star player, Haley Shaklee sidelined temporarily with a bloody nose, only to return late in the third quarter and immediately put together five points to close the period 47-31.
Kate Webster led Lutheran with 19 points and Shaklee 15. Alyssa Remy and Elisa DeLorenzo each put up eight for The Academy.
“Lutheran’s a heck of a good ball team,” Academy coach Steven Cancino said. “Whenever we have our back to the wall, we usually step up and today we just kind of ran out of juice. We’re gonna come back again, I guarantee it.”
Lutheran coach Mark Duitsman said he was pleased with his young team proving themselves.
“This is the first time for a lot of them in this kind of playoff atmosphere,” he said. “We had kind of an expected bump, give The Academy credit for that, but they rode it out.”
He also noted his excitement at being matched with hosting Moffat County yet again.
“Our program has so much respect for this team here, and we fully expect them to be ready to go,” Duitsman said.
On the Bulldog side, only three players were part of the Moffat County varsity roster when the two teams last saw each other in 2016, and Pinnt, McDiffett and Camilletti look forward to the chance to avenge their fall in the Great 8.
They’ve taken plenty of opportunities to study them so they’ll know what to expect.
“Each one of us has looked at their videos differently to see what we can do against them,” McDiffett said. “Our defense will really be what does it.”
A blend of Northwest Colorado imagery and splashy colors now greets Craig drivers and pedestrians.