Moffat County girls hoops adjusts to mid-season coaching change
With conference games underway, Moffat County basketball players are focusing on the fundamentals even with shifts around them.
Bulldog girls basketball is under new leadership with head coach Seth Watson taking over after former head coach Eric Hamilton was let go by the school leading into the holiday break. Both Hamilton and the MCHS athletic department declined to comment on his departure.
Watson, an MCHS math teacher since 2016, has served as an assistant coach for the boys basketball program in that time, and he applied for the girls head coaching position just before Christmas.
“I would like the conditions to be a little bit different. Taking over a team in the middle of the season is very challenging, but I feel like I’m up for it,” Watson said. “I’ve been working really hard to get this team going with the climate and culture and getting us on the same page.”
He began leading practices the first week of January and oversaw a 54-20 road win over Middle Park and a 40-36 loss at home to Coal Ridge. More recently, the girls picked up their first win in Class 4A Western Slope League play with a 42-34 victory over Basalt on Saturday, Jan. 14.
“Coal Ridge really got them prepared to play against Basalt. I told them with Coal Ridge, ‘We’re fine. We’ve just gotta crawl our way back,’ and they worked hard that whole game. They didn’t have enough gas to close it out, but they battled hard that entire game,” he said. “From day one, I’ve preached defense and toughness. ‘Tenacious’ is the word of the week I’ve used for my players, and they have completely bought in. We had a very disciplined game against Basalt.”
Senior Lizzy LeWarne led scoring with 13 points and earned a double-double — her third this season — with 19 rebounds.
“I told her last week that it was her third game with 14 boards, and that’s incredible. Then she goes and has 19,” Watson said. “She’s in position to rebound and always going and getting the ball.”
Saturday also marked the return of senior Cayden King, putting up 12 points in her first game back after recovering from a back injury.
“She only played about half the game, but it was great to see her get those minutes and get back out there,” Watson said.
With Watson taking on the head coach spot, the shuffle of basketball coaches led to girls junior varsity coach Dillon Hoselton moving to the boys program for their JV position, with Joe Camilletti overseeing girls JV.
While MoCo girls only had one home event in the past week, boys saw two tipoffs at home and one on the road.
Following a 71-52 loss Jan. 10 at home to nonleague opponent Eagle Valley, the Bulldogs faced 4A WSL’s Aspen for the second time this season, beating the Skiers 55-35.
After adding 28 points earlier in the week against the Devils, junior Bryant Carlson reeled it back to drop 17 against Aspen, closely followed by Hudson Jones’ 13 points.
The Dogs’ return to Craig Saturday saw them come out against the Longhorns with confidence, holding a comfortable lead for most of the game before a fourth quarter scoring spree by Basalt forced them into overtime. The extra minutes saw the Longhorns win it 64-60.
“We made some kind of poor decisions, couple late turnovers and they hit a pretty crazy 3 in the corner,” boys coach Mark Carlson said. “(It was a) pretty heartbreaking loss, because we had tons of opportunities to put that game away and just didn’t do it.”
Coach Carlson noted that injuries incurred the previous week against Middle Park — a game which saw senior Cort Murphy come out with a broken ankle — and a lesson in turnovers during a loss to Coal Ridge have helped his athletes see where they can improve.
“We changed a couple things after that — mixed up the lineup a little bit, changed our defensive approach a bit, and we’ve played better defense the last few games, which has helped,” he said.
Senior Marcos Romero shone in the Basalt game, earning a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
“Marcos had back-to-back really good games. He played really good in Aspen, held their leading scorer to 10,” Carlson said.
Going into overtime against Basalt was an indicator Bulldog athletes will compete however long it takes, he added.
“We’ve jumped out on teams, but I don’t know if it’s getting a little tired and a little complacent or both. I told the guys at the start of the year that every league game would be kinda like this, back and forth,” coach Carlson said. “I think the league teams will beat up on each other, and we gotta expect dogfights every game.”
MCHS hoops teams host Summit on Friday night, Jan. 20, before traveling to Delta the next day.
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