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Moffat County hoops headed toward districts after hot games with Coal Ridge

NEW CASTLE — Moffat County High School basketball teams marked the end of the regular season Thursday night, and even as the schedule comes closer to its conclusion, Bulldogs are keeping their intensity greater than ever.

MCHS girls finished 3A Western Slope League play 8-1 with a 46-31 road win over the Coal Ridge Titans to improve to 15-4 overall. Bulldog boys followed with an equally action-packed game, one which Moffat County guys lost 78-57.

Lady Dogs brought the pain early with an 18-5 opening quarter complete with three-pointers by Kinlie Brennise and Jaidyn Steele and inside field goals for Stephenie Swindler, Emaleigh Papierski, Halle Hamilton and Tiffany Hildebrandt. They didn’t slow down from there, rolling over Coal Ridge for the following eight minutes of the game clock to make it a 32-13 halftime with Hamilton sinking her second triple at the horn.

The Titans’ physicality let MoCo girls get work done solely from the free throw line in the third quarter, as Papierski and Steele combined to go six-for-six at the stripe, finishing the period with a 38-18 lead.

Coal Ridge’s towering Taylor Wiescamp — the WSL’s leader in rebounds per game — and comrades fought for every possession, with an abundance of jump balls resulting from the skirmishes, most of which saw athletes hit the floor.

Lady Dogs gave as good as they got, as Madie Weber and Jenna Timmer fouled out late in the high-energy game.

“We came out strong with a lot of confidence, and I think that helped, but Coal Ridge had good D,” Brennise said.

Hamilton finished the regular season with an even 30 three-pointers and led the Dogs with 13 points for the night to Wiescamp’s 12, while Hildebrandt put 10 on the board and Steele seven.

The trend of first-quarter ferocity continued for the Bulldog boys, who likewise caught fire from the perimeter.

As part of a 15-point night earned exclusively from deep shots, Torin Reed had triples in triplicate at the start of the game, while Connor Murphy sunk one from downtown while also getting in the paint along with Cale Scranton and Connor Etzler to lead the Titans 19-11.

“I wish we could have a first quarter like that every night,” said coach Eric Hamilton.

The Dogs’ defense got careless from there, however, as MoCo fouls sent Coal Ridge to the line eight times in the second quarter alone, the Titans getting 17 trips to that spot during the evening.

Jerod Chacon also put up points from the arc for the Bulldogs, but the Coal Ridge crowd was more interested in a buzzer-beating 3 by Kevin DiMarco to end the half 40-25 for the Titans.

Shutting down the 6′ 8″ DiMarco proved a tall order for Moffat County, though they still managed to outscore the Titans 18-17 in the third quarter as Murphy rained down a pair of 3’s and Ryan Peck stayed tough in the post to get small but crucial buckets.

Even with 33 points for the night, DiMarco’s biggest moment was more blunder than wonder; as he went up for a block against Peck, he knocked loose part of the backboard, stopping the clock with 30 seconds in the period as Coal Ridge personnel taped up the broken border.

Colby Beaver kept the ball rolling as he absorbed fouls in the fourth quarter, while Reed swished two more triples and Wesley Counts got a last-second Bulldog three-pointer, though the Titans couldn’t be stopped with a 21-14 finale.

“We were at a disadvantage in height, but we still brought that intensity. That’s what we need to have from here,” Reed said.

Following Reed in the point count were Murphy with 12, Peck eight and Beaver seven.

Though they experienced a slide in WSL play to move to fifth in the rankings at 6-3, the 15-3 Coal Ridge boys will have the best overall record in their conference with a win Friday against Eagle Valley in their final game before the postseason.

Meanwhile, the loss keeps MCHS boys firmly in seventh place at 3-6 in the league and 5-14 altogether.

Lady Bulldogs will have to wait and see who makes the trip to Craig for their first district tournament game. At second place, they will host the highest-seeded team in Saturday play-in games, the likelihood being No. 7 Gunnison (3-6 WSL, 7-12 overall), which hosts No. 10 Olathe (0-9, 3-16).

Should the Pirates win Saturday in Gunnison, they will have to face top girls team Delta (9-0 WSL, 18-1 overall), in which case Moffat girls will bring in the victor between rivals Aspen and Basalt, with the eighth-place Longhorns (3-6, 5-14) hosting the No. 9 Skiers (1-8, 4-15) Saturday after Basalt bested Aspen 39-31 Thursday.

Either way, the game will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday at MCHS, 900 Finley Lane.

“We’re just going to keep it going one step at a time, working on our game,” Brennise said.

Bulldog boys will suit up Saturday at home against Cedaredge, who finished the regular season 0-9 in WSL action, a rough stretch that included a 57-32 January defeat at the Dog House.

A Cedaredge win sends the league’s bottom team to conference champs Delta (9-0, 15-4), though if Moffat boys take the victory, they could be on the road to Carbondale Tuesday, with 7-2 Roaring Fork sliding into runner-up status after the Rams bested Grand Valley 46-40 and Gunnison took a 56-35 Thursday loss to Delta.

The Dogs will tip off at 2 p.m. Saturday against the Bruins at MCHS. Spectators are reminded that playoff games’ ticket prices are increased, as mandated by CHSAA.

Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens.

For more information, call 970-824-7036.

Police investigating counterfeit bills: On the Record — Feb. 13

Craig Police Department

Wednesday, Feb. 13

1:46 a.m. In Craig, police responded to a traffic stop, but were unable to make contact with any driver. Police responded to at least three other traffic stops throughout Craig on Wednesday.  

7:47 a.m. In Craig, police provided an extra patrol. A homeowner requested an extra patrol vehicle while out of town.

8:05 a.m. On the 900 block of Sloan Circle, police responded to a civil problem call. A male party came to the Public Safety Center and requested to speak with officers regarding possible civil issues.

9:18 a.m. In Craig, police checked on the welfare of a resident. A male party called and requested a welfare check on a female party, who allegedly left his residence with a child not in a car seat.  

9:29 a.m. On the 800 block of West First Street, police responded to a possible theft. Upon arrival, they learned it was a dispute between roommates over personal property.

10:31 a.m. On the 2000 block of West Victory Way, police responded to a report of a possible counterfeit bill. The matter is under investigation.

10:39 a.m. On the 1000 block of West Sixth Street, police responded to an animal complaint. A female was bitten by a stray cat.

11:02 a.m. On the 700 block of Tucker Street, police responded a harassment call. Upon arrival, officers mitigated a dispute between two tenants in an apartment building.

3:01 p.m. On the 30 block of East Victory Way, police responded to a report of a suspicious person, vehicle, or article call. A business owner requested to speak with officers regarding possible suspicious activity. Police responded to at least three other suspicious person, vehicle, or article calls throughout the day Wednesday.

8:32 p.m. In Craig, police responded responded to a fraud report. A resident wished to provide information about possible counterfeit bills.

Editorial: Worthy idea, poor execution

Editor's note: Publisher Renee Campbell and Community Representative Codi Fisher were unable to attend this week's meeting of the Editorial Board and did not participate in the development of this position.

Near the close of an emotional meeting of the Craig City Council on Tuesday, city leaders voted to put the brakes on discussions about the possible consolidation of city/county services and place a five-year moratorium on any such talks in the future.

The news was both disappointing and unsurprising — disappointing, because some of the possibilities being discussed by the Joint Services Committee merited further consideration, and unsurprising, because such seems always to be the fate of forward-thinking notions in our community.

In principle, we take no issue with the work of the Joint Services Committee, which was headed by City Councilman Chris Nichols, County Commissioner Ray Beck, and City Manager Peter Brixius, and we are convinced all three had the best interests of the city and county at heart.

It is a fact that Craig Station's Unit 1 will close Dec. 31, 2025, and its loss will strike yet another blow to the community's economic outlook. For that reason, alone, it was both wise and prudent to begin discussing ways to save money, and combining duplicate services might be a good way to accomplish this.

So, in terms of principle, the idea was a worthy one. In terms of execution, however, it left much to be desired.

Meeting largely in secret, the committee's plans and ideas were kept largely shrouded from public view, and once word leaked out that part of the discussions involved the possibility of dissolving the Craig Police Department and contracting with the Moffat County Sheriff's Department for city law enforcement — a plan Nichols said might have saved the city $750,000 per year, with no reduction in service levels — the rumor mill ratcheted up to full force, heralding the beginning of the end of talks.

Police officers and their families — as well as other concerned community members — packed City Hall on Tuesday as City Council gathered to hear the particulars of the committee's work.

But council members — as well as the standing-room-only crowd — also heard an emotional appeal from Craig Police Chief Jerry DeLong, who said he had not been included in many of the discussions leading up to the recommendations.

DeLong referenced a Feb. 7 "strategy session" held by the committee, a session he was not notified of until after the fact.

"I feel like my organization, your police department, is getting a raw deal," the police chief said. "I feel like someone is putting their foot on the gas pedal, and they just took off."

DeLong said the situation was difficult for him, as he felt shut out of discussions that stood to deeply impact his department and his employees.

"I get emotional, because this is very difficult for me …," DeLong told council members. "I just hired four people that might not have a job in six or eight months."

And while we are not convinced consolidating law enforcement services throughout Moffat County was the best approach, we unfortunately never even got to hear the full proposal. This, in our opinion, is true because the public was not kept apprised of the committee's work and because DeLong was apparently not included in the process.

Such seems to have become a recurring theme in Craig and Moffat County. Our elected leaders begin discussing something that stands to impact everyone in the community, but fail to effectively inform the community about what's being discussed, and a rudimentary fact of human nature is, if people aren't provided with a narrative, they'll manufacture one of their own.

This is what we think happened here, and it's a pity.

No one should be angry with the police department, and particularly, with Chief DeLong, who risked his job in defense of his employees. His actions were courageous and honorable, and we certainly hope there will be no reprisals directed toward him or his department.

Similarly, any anger directed toward Nichols or Beck or Brixius should also be tempered.

Though we take issue with their process, we don't believe any of them went into the situation with nefarious intentions. On the contrary, we have every confidence they were trying to do their duty as elected officials.

But we hope that, in the future, our elected officials will be mindful of the lessons to be learned here.

Community members must be kept informed about issues that stand to impact them, and though the Joint Services Committee seems to have adhered to the letter of the Sunshine Law, we're not entirely sure they honored the spirit of it.

We, as a community, have met tremendous challenges in the past few years, and it looks like we'll be facing more of them in the future. If we expect to survive and thrive in the changing economic environment, we have to learn to trust one another, be transparent, and keep the door open.

We hope Tuesday's unfortunate outcome will drive that point home.

Craig Middle School girls basketball conquers competition at district tourney

The older members of Craig Middle School’s basketball had a title to defend Saturday, and while they didn’t disappoint, they aren’t the only athletes getting a legacy started.

CMS girls hoops took first place in both the seventh- and eighth-grade A-Team district tournament games in Steamboat Springs.

Todd Trapp’s eighth-graders took the trophy with a 33-20 win over Meeker to start the day, followed by the championship victory of 39-18 against Rangely.

Trapp noted the group has functioned well as a team ready and raring for the high school level throughout a season in which they sought to repeat the district title they achieved last year.

The eighth-grade B-Team lost a 17-16 heartbreaker to the Sailors before finishing third in the tourney with 25-11 W versus Meeker.

While the seventh-grade B went 0-2, the A-Team’s rematch against Rangely began the day, the Bulldogs having lost to the Panthers earlier in the schedule. The 37-17 win invigorated them and set them up for a much narrower match with Meeker, defeating the Cowboys 22-18.

The finale was fitting in a year that was full of growth, said coach Alicia Townsend.

“You would see them making an effort to do everything that we asked them to do and more. I am proud of these young ladies both for their skill, talent, and hard work but I am also very proud of the fact that they were very supportive of each other without having to be coached to do that,” Townsend said. “It was a great season overall, and I am certainly looking forward to next year.”