Bulldogs pull away from Rams for title
GRAND JUNCTION — Moffat County High School’s boys basketball team has three players on its roster who are three-year starters. The Roaring Fork Rams came into this season with three players who had varsity basketball experience.
Yet, here were the Rams on Saturday playing the Bulldogs in the championship game of the Class 3A Western Slope League District Tournament at Grand Junction Central High School. But by the end of the game, the more-experienced Bulldogs were the ones who played more poised down the stretch on their way to a 57-45 victory.
“I couldn’t be prouder as a coach even if they had won the game,” Roaring Fork coach Larry Williams said. “They’ve come so far.
“We had the league champs on the ropes, and it wasn’t until the final six minutes that they made their run and we didn’t answer,” Williams continued.
For three quarters, however, Roaring Fork (15-7 overall) put itself in a position to win just like it did in Craig on Feb. 14, when the Rams handed Moffat County its only league loss of the season. But thanks in part to senior Joe Camilletti, who scored 16 of his team’s 26 fourth-quarter points and happens to be one of those three three-year starters, the Bulldogs (18-4) pulled away and will host the regional round of the Class 3A state tournament when it starts next weekend.
“They hit a few big shots there at the beginning, and that really took the momentum away from us,” Roaring Fork senior Ben Carpenter said. “They have a great ballclub with great players who were well coached, and they outplayed us tonight.”
Camilletti finished with a game-high 22 points, but his fourth-quarter outburst was the deciding factor against Roaring Fork. Carpenter finished with 15 points and three of Roaring Fork’s five 3-pointers, and Raul Leyva scored seven of his nine points in the second half to help keep the Rams in the game.
Leyva hit the front end of a 1-and-1 foul-shot opportunity to put Roaring Fork up 33-30 with 36.4 seconds left before the fourth quarter, and a Moffat County foul shot from Matt Hamilton pulled them within two at the end of the third. That’s when Camilletti got things going for Bulldogs, scoring the first seven Moffat County points of the stanza. His three-point play with 5:42 left, followed by a 3-pointer from Tyler Davis, gave the Bulldogs the lead for good at 41-37.
Meanwhile, the Rams, who were making their fourth appearance in the district-tournament title game in the past five years, weren’t able to come any closer from that point on.
Benton Taylor added seven points and Hamilton and Dylan Kinkade each chipped in seven for the Bulldogs, who will find out who they’re matched up with in the state tournament when the Colorado High School Activities Association announces its state-tournament bracket today. It’ll be a busy weekend in Craig — Moffat County’s girls team beat Olathe in its tournament-title game to earn the right to host for the 3A regional.
Meanwhile, Williams is confident about his team’s chances at advancing regardless of where the Rams go this week.
“They beat a great team [Grand Valley] on Friday and they played very well against a great team today,” the coach said. “I feel pretty good about how we’re playing.”
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Local teams just missed out on qualifying for state as teams but will be sending individual representatives following Friday’s regional meets.