Seniors shine in final games as Moffat County basketball teams end seasons
For the Craig Press
As the 3A basketball playoff fields narrowed to eight teams apiece this past weekend, it did so without Moffat County hoopsters moving any further. But the last matches of the year brought no less of an effort from Bulldog athletes.
MCHS teams entered the Round of 32 Friday evening in the regional segment of the 3A postseason, each of them taking a hard-fought defeat to close the year on the court.
Bulldog boys had their work cut out for them, placed 29th of 32 schools in the brackets, a seeding that put them up against Denver’s Colorado Academy, who hosted the opening round and subsequent Sweet 16.
After winning the 3A Metro League this season, the 19-3 Mustangs took their first losses since December during the district round, falling to both Manual and Faith Christian to place fourth, though their RPI status was not impacted enough to lose hosting duties.
The Bulldogs, likewise looking for redemption after a 1-2 run throughout the previous week’s district event, came into the game steady enough with a 12-12 first quarter, but things quickly took a turn.
Colorado Academy went on a tear offensively, with 23 points, and limited the Dogs to nine to make it a 35-21 half. Forcing plentiful turnovers, the Mustangs remained ahead throughout the third quarter — 57-36 moving into the final frame — and though MoCo boys picked up steam down the final stretch with a 20-10 final quarter, they fell 67-56.
Seniors Ryan Peck and Logan Hafey led scoring, largely from three-point land. Peck hit four triples to add to a personal best 20 points, while Hafey sunk three outside shots as part of 15 total points.
Sophomore Bryant Carlson and senior Myles Simpson each hit one bucket from the perimeter, with Bryant scoring eight total and Simpson five. Junior Cort Murphy also scored five, and senior Jordan Carlson three.
As the leading rebounder for the season, Peck had the most boards again with nine, while Bryant Carlson managed eight, and five for Simpson. Jordan Carlson added three assists, while senior Nick Crookston outdid himself as the Bulldog big man with a personal-best five blocks.
Colorado Academy went on to the boys’ Great 8 round with a 58-32 win over Pagosa Springs.
On the girls’ side, the Colorado Springs Christian School Lions took down Moffat County, as the 22-seed Bulldogs fell 61-44.
The last time MoCo and Colorado Springs Christian faced off was the 2018 state semifinals, a year before any of the current seniors began high school. That season, the Lions beat the Bulldogs 51-30 before ending the year as the state runners-up.
Though the roster is now entirely different, the Lions have proven to be no less of a threat, now 20-4.
“Defensively, they were a really tough match up for us,” said MCHS coach Eric Hamilton. “I did not make the right adjustments early on, and we just got too far behind. Our team fought hard the entire game and never gave up.”
In what would be their final outing, Moffat County seniors Halle Hamilton and Rylie Felten each earned 12 points, with the majority of Halle’s total coming from a trio of three-pointers.
Junior Lizzy LeWarne sunk one from behind the arc as part of her nine points, while sophomores Quincy Lowe and Emma Tucker scored four and three points, respectively, with senior Reese Weber and freshman Caitlyn Adams on the board with two points apiece.
End of an era
The regional games marked the last high school hoops event for 10 Bulldog seniors: Peck, Hafey, Simpson, Carlson, Crookston, Weber, Felten, Emma Jones, Jacie Evenson, and Hamilton.
Most of the upperclassmen have been suiting up for varsity since their freshman year and have worked under both of the current Bulldog coaches.
After finishing 10-4 in a shortened 2020-21 season in his first year coaching the girls, coach Hamilton said he’s pleased with the way players have shown their talent in a 14-9 year.
“These girls should be very proud and remember all the positives of this season. This is a first-class group on and off the court,” he said. “We came up short of reaching the Great 8 this year, but there is a lot of pride with this team, and the seniors were everything a coach could ask for and so much more.”
While none of the members of the Moffat County girls program have experienced a losing season in high school, this winter marked a turning point for the boys team after season records of 6-15, 8-12, and 6-7 across the past three years.
In his first year as head of the program, coach Carlson said he will happily take the 13-9 finish in a year that was the Bulldogs’ first time ending it over .500 since 2015.
“We made it back to the playoffs for the first time in like seven years, we made it to regionals. We doubled our win total from last season,” Carlson said. “I am bummed the season ended with a loss, but we fought and competed extremely well with the No. 4 team in the state. There were a ton of positives. The boys this year were bonded and played team basketball for each other all season.”
Coach Carlson added that he’s feeling confident about the athletes returning next winter, though he will miss the seniors.
“They are all like family and I am super close with them,” he said. “I wish all of them great success in life and will continue to follow them and root them on as they move on to bigger and better things.”
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