Steamboat Springs Laurel Mortensen's shoulders are broad and strong for someone 5-foot-4.
The Moffat County guard carried her team to a 43-37 victory over Steamboat Springs Tuesday, scoring a game-high 21 points to give the Bulldogs a clear shot at the league title should they win out.
Steamboat, at 13-2 overall and 6-2 in the league, played Moffat County nearly even, giving the defending league champion its closest game in awhile, Bulldogs coach Craig Mortensen said.
"We needed to earn the win," Mortensen said. "They weren't going to concede it. They had a good game plan. Steamboat's got a nice team."
Nice isn't good enough for the Sailors, especially for a senior class that has yet to defeat Moffat County at the varsity level. The Sailors may see the Bulldogs later in the postseason, but if they don't, Steamboat's Class of 2003 leaves winless against its counterparts from Craig.
And that doesn't sit well with senior Tracy Lucas. She takes no consolation in the fact that the game was close or that Steamboat could have won. It didn't, and it's really that simple.
The same holds true for Steve Moos.
"We were so close most of the game," the Steamboat coach said. "We could have played better."
Defensively, the Sailors contained Mortensen on the perimeter. The defending player of the year in the league, Mortensen, missed all five of her 3-point attempts and shot just 6-of-19 from the field overall.
Her points mostly came via offensive rebounds or from the foul line where she converted 9-of-16 attempts.
"Our guards really tightened up," Lucas said.
Senior Anya Allen and junior Bailey Draper stuck to Mortensen for most of Tuesday night, frustrating the guard into uncharacteristic turnovers and errant shots. In turn, the Bulldogs had a difficult time executing on offense, shooting less than 30 percent from the field.
Steamboat, however, shot even worse -- just more than 20 percent -- and only went 9-of-20 from the foul line compared to Moffat County's 18-of-33.
And when the time came for big plays, Mortensen made them.
In the closing three minutes of the second quarter, with Steamboat leading 14-13, Mortensen reeled off seven of her team's 11 points before the half, sending her team up eight as opposed to down one.
"She's a pretty good player," Craig Mortensen said. "Laurel does certain things with the ball no other player in the league can do."
The Bulldogs maintained their lead through three quarters, but instead of folding, the Sailors came out energetic and intense at the outset of the fourth, scoring the first seven points of the quarter to even up the score with 6:28 to go.
Mortensen halted Steamboat's run with a lay-in and foul, but she failed to convert the three-point play.
The Sailors never got closer than those two points, but they didn't give up either, fouling all the way until the closing seconds, trying to get back in the game.
"We really wanted to be aggressive," Moos said. "Our defense was pretty good. We played more like we wanted, but no one's happy we were close. It's almost tougher."
Though Craig Mortensen said an individual doesn't win or lose games, it's obvious Moffat County's success rests on the play of Laurel Mortensen.
"She definitely controls their team and is their main focal point," Lucas said.
Steamboat's defense on Mortensen contributed largely to Moffat County's 21 turnovers. The Sailors, however, had 19 of their own cough-ups, failing to capitalize on a less-than-perfect game from their rivals in Craig.
One bright side for Steamboat was the continued strong play from senior Bayli Stillwell. She had 11 points during the game, seven of which came in the fourth quarter. She also pulled down eight rebounds.
Delta and Palisade are next for Steamboat. The Sailors travel to Delta Friday for a 6 p.m. game against the Panthers. Steamboat is in Palisade on Saturday for a 4:30 p.m. game against the Bulldogs.