Senior Night and beyond: Moffat County basketball looking to postseason after mixed games with Roaring Fork
A look back on four years of memories preceded Saturday’s Moffat County High School basketball games, but Bulldogs will be keeping their vision set firmly on the horizon from here.
MCHS hoops athletes had Senior Night on their minds during their final home event of the regular season, which, for better or worse, played into their outings with the Roaring Fork Rams as matches that help set the Dogs up for the postseason.
Work out any weaknesses
A salute to the oldest members of the Lady Bulldogs highlighted Kinlie Brennise, Quinn Pinnt, Jaidyn Steele, Madie Weber, Tiffany Hildebrandt and Brittnee Meats, as well as managers Sharon Quick and Michelle Shingleton.
The emotional ceremony, coupled with the previous night’s physically draining game in Granby, led to a molasses-slow start for MoCo girls’ offense, picking up no points for nearly the first four minutes until Brennise got the Dogs on the board with a free throw.
Once the ball got rolling, Hildy added a bucket from beneath with Emaleigh Papierski and Halle Hamilton joining the effort to put the home squad in front 7-5 at first quarter’s end.
The pace picked up quickly in the second period, with a 9-2 Bulldog run in less than three minutes, with Hamilton adding two three-pointers before halftime to help her team get in front 26-9.
If the first quarter was molasses, the third was cement, with more than five minutes elapsed before Hildy added a foul shot to get the action reset.
While the Rams’ Gabriela Santana kept up her reputation as the best blocker in the 3A Western Slope League with some big shutdowns under the rim, she couldn’t stop the overall Bulldog onslaught as Hamilton and Hildy kept adding points, making it 34-13 after three quarters.
“We were a little out of sync, and I changed some things up,” coach Jim Loughran said.
Loughran noted that although his players had fits and starts on one side of the ball, defense for the day was consistent, evident in the final minutes as Steele, Papierski and Stephenie Swindler kept up the intensity at half-court to turn steals into transitional buckets, eventually finishing 46-20.
“I think sometimes even I wouldn’t want to face our press out there,” he said.
Hildy and Hamilton each put together 13 points, with seven for Swindler, six to Papierski, and four for Steele.
Rocked by the Rams
Senior Night combined with Friday’s Middle Park game was also a factor for the boys game, which began with the same sendoff ceremony for Cale Scranton, Victor Silva, Connor Etzler, Colby Beaver, Connor Murphy, Torin Reed and manager Trinitie Beckner.
Unlike the girls, boys had a hot start as Scranton sank two quick field goals before Roaring Fork went to work on the other end, 11 straight points interrupted only by one more basket by the Bulldogs from Landen Najera in an 11-6 quarter for the Rams.
Another 10 points came swiftly before Najera scored again, and a triple by Jerod Chacon didn’t help as much as it should have as the two teams went into the locker room with Roaring Fork ahead 31-13.
Following halftime performances by the MCHS cheerleaders and the Moffat County Rave Dance Team — celebrating their own seniors, among them Abigail Hall, Sambu Shrestha, Bailey Lawton and Kelsey Stauffer — an 8-7 third quarter was Bulldog boys’ best stretch with inside jumpers by Beaver and Reed and another outside swish by Chacon.
Still, the Rams controlled the game flow from there, on the right side of a 15-7 period for a 53-28 win over the Dogs.
Najera picked up eight points, with six for Chacon and five for Reed.
Districts dead ahead
With girls 7-1 in WSL play and 14-4 overall, the Lady Dogs are all but certain to finish the regular schedule second in the conference, which will guarantee them a home game Feb. 19 to start the district tournament.
A road win against final league foe Coal Ridge Feb. 14 will solidify that position, and though Delta is all but certain to finish as conference champions, the structure of the remaining schedule is to the Bulldogs’ favor, Loughran said.
“I want to play a tough team like Coal Ridge, that’s what we need right now,” he said.
With MoCo girls facing staunch opponents like Middle Park, Roaring Fork and Coal Ridge late in the season, their skills will be tested more than Delta, whose final three games of league play are against Aspen, Olathe and Gunnison, all of which remain in the bottom four of the Western Slope and will battle amongst each other to later face Delta and Moffat County to get into the next round of the tourney.
If all goes according to plan, Loughran expects to see Basalt come to Craig for the Feb. 19 game.
As for the boys, the loss to Roaring Fork was a blow to morale to put them at 5-13 overall, 3-5 conference, though the silver lining is the defeat ranks them at seventh.
The game against Coal Ridge will help determine if they stay there or move to sixth.
“Coal Ridge is definitely beatable, they’ve had a lot of changes this season,” said coach Eric Hamilton.
While nothing is set in stone, as the conference rounds out the year, should they stay at No. 7, Moffat guys would host a play-in game Feb. 16 against the last-place team — odds say Cedaredge — the winner of which would travel the next day to the league’s second-place school.
That will all depend on how Gunnison performs against Delta the same night Bulldogs face the Titans.
Hamilton is rooting for a Panther victory, because though the trip to meet the Cowboys would be longer, he foresees a better game in Gunnison.
“When we played Gunnison the first time, we only lost by six, eight points, and they’re probably the best team out of the top that we match up with,” he said.
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