CARBONDALE, Colorado - Izzy Leyva doesn't consider himself an offense-first player. The Roaring Fork High School senior takes pride in being a pest on defense.
Against Moffat County on Saturday, Leyva was a pest on both ends of the floor.
A steal by Leyva on defense led to his go-ahead 3-pointer on offense with 2 minutes, 9 seconds left. The wide-open triple gave the Rams a lead they would not relinquish in a 57-54 win over the visiting Bulldogs.
"Defense is my No. 1 priority, you could say," said a beaming Leyva, whose wide-open 3-pointer gave Roaring Fork a 55-52 lead. "Defense is my thing. I tell my teammates I'm not too talented on offense. I can't pop most shots, but that's why I try so hard on defense. That's where I know I'm good at. That's what I practice most."
Moffat County countered Leyva's trey with an offensive putback by Tyler Davis to cut it to 55-54, but the Rams' Dakotah Grett drained a pair at the foul line with 32.8 seconds left to round out the final count.
The Bulldogs had one last chance at an equalizer when, after a pair of missed free throws by Grett with 9.9 seconds remaining, Taft Cleverly hoisted an NBA-length 3-pointer that missed its mark. Matthew Hamilton secured the long rebound and immediately attempted to find a teammate with a pass, but Leyva came up with it instead.
"That was a tough one to lose," Moffat County coach Eric Hamilton said, "but it was a lot of fun to play."
Hamilton's squad, which led by as many as 13 points (41-28) in the third quarter, lost for the first time this season. The Bulldogs are now 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the 3A Western Slope League.
"We have a team of fighters," Roaring Fork coach Larry Williams said. "I was real proud of their effort to come back. Give credit to Moffat. That's a good ball club. We would dig ourselves in a little hole and we worked our way out of it every time. There's a lot to be said about the character of these guys."
Senior big man Trae Moxley led the Rams (2-2 overall, 2-0 in the 3A WSL) with 24 points. Grett chipped in with 11 points and Ben Carpenter eight. Leyva and Tanner Nieslanik finished with six apiece.
Matthew Hamilton paced Moffat County with 14 points. Tyler Davis scored 13 and Phillip Chadwick and Tyler Hildebrandt each ended up with eight points for the Bulldogs, who managed just seven points in the fourth quarter.
A fast start set the tone for Roaring Fork's girls against Moffat County on Saturday.
The Rams scored six of the day's first eight points and went on to take a 15-11 lead after a quarter. Although they would relinquish the lead a few times over the course of the game, they held on for a 51-41 win over the Bulldogs.
"Our first quarter, we said that was the best quarter of our game," Roaring Fork junior Maddie Nieslanik said. "Once we gained that momentum, we just did it."
"That set a good tone," Rams coach Kirk Cheney said. "These girls know what they want to do. They know what they want to accomplish. Moffat's a good team."
Roaring Fork trailed 23-22 at halftime after Moffat's Bailey Hellander connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Rams built up a 36-33 lead by third quarter's end.
In the fourth is where the game slipped away for the Bulldogs, who got a triple from Lisa Camilletti to tie it at 36 less than a minute into the final frame.
From there, Roaring Fork scored the next seven points - four on free throws by Nieslanik and three on a long-range shot by Shaeley Lough - to seize control.
Nieslanik, who connected at a 6-for-6 clip at the foul line in the fourth, led all scorers with 14 points. Lough finished with 11 and Megan Gianinetti had 10 for the Rams, who improved to 2-2 overall and to 2-0 in the 3A WSL.
Camilletti led Moffat County (2-3, 1-1) with 12 points. Former Coal Ridge student Allie Ehlers added nine and Kylee Ellgen seven.
"We just didn't play our normal game today," Bulldogs coach Matt Ray said. "It was our first road trip [for league]. Who knows? We had a Thursday night game and played well. We were just out of sync today."