Moffat County girls hoops team closes season with playoff loss to Kent Denver as player breaks school record |

Moffat County girls hoops team closes season with playoff loss to Kent Denver as player breaks school record

Moffat County sophomore Mena Tucker pushes her way in for a layup against Rifle on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

The Moffat County girls basketball season came to a close this week, and the Bulldogs’ final run of games saw them record some of their biggest numbers.

The girls basketball team fell 56-52 on Tuesday, Feb. 21, to Englewood’s Kent Denver in the opening round of the 4A CHSAA State Championships. Following three wins in one week, the Bulldogs were hoping to host a first-round game, hovering on the edge of the top 16 ranked schools.

However, with 4A Western Slope League rivals Coal Ridge and Summit in similar standings in the bracket and CHSAA rules not allowing league opponents to be matched in the first round, the Bulldogs got shuffled around to the No. 18 seed and were paired with the No. 15 Sun Devils.

Kent came out strong in the first quarter, and the Bulldogs trailed 29-19 midway through the game.

“We climbed back from being down 10 at halftime, but just couldn’t quite catch them,” coach Seth Watson said. “Really proud of the girls — they gave it everything they had.”

The team ended the season at 13-9 overall. Additionally, MoCo senior Cayden King finished her high school career with her best scoring total ever at 24 points. Senior Lizzy LeWarne added nine points and junior Emma Tucker six in the effort.

King, who has signed to play for Colorado Mesa University, missed nearly all her junior season with an ACL injury. She also had to sit out a long stretch of this year due to issues with her back while recovering from the previous injury. Even so, she’s scored in double digits every game since late January.

“I’m finally getting my speed and everything back from all those injuries,” King said. “It’s been a long road, but it’s been a good one.”

The final week of the regular season saw the Bulldogs pick up a 52-50 win over former league rival Grand Valley, a top 10 team in the 3A ranks, on Feb. 16. Then Moffat County won again on Saturday, Feb. 18, with a 64-30 victory against Rifle to put the Bulldogs third in the 4A WSL.

As part of their final home game, seniors King, LeWarne, Jadence Vasquez and Sadie Smilanich were honored with their families as part of a pre-game ceremony. Like King, Smilanich also missed most of her junior year with an ACL injury.

Being back in the action as a senior had much more significance after the long hiatus.

“It’s been really exciting, and it’s kind of crazy that it’s coming to an end,” Smilanich said. “We had a really good season, and I’m glad for all the time I was able to play.”

For LeWarne, the Rifle game was special, as her parents held up a sign counting down the eight rebounds she needed to break the school record. She more than doubled that amount with 17 boards against the Bears, and with 13 more against Kent Denver, the new single-season record total went from 258 to 281.

“Rebounds never hurt, and it’s a good way to help the team,” said LeWarne, who credited her family members with giving her the height, speed and long arms that helped her thrive.

Still, the end of the season came sooner than players would have liked.

“I’m going to miss everyone,” Smilanich said. “I’m friends with all the girls on the team, and it’s going to be really hard to move on.”

LeWarne agreed it will be tough to say goodbye after all they’ve shared.

“It’s been a wild year and a lot of ups and downs, but it’s a good team. I love playing with them. I couldn’t be more grateful,” she said.

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