Among the elite

Bulldogs use OT to advance vs. Montrose

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— For 23 games, the Moffat County girls basketball team didn't get challenged in the fourth quarter. No. 24 was an exception.

Montrose gave the Bulldogs all they could handle in the fourth quarter, when they rallied from a seven-point deficit to tie the score. After overtime started, the Bulldogs scored the first 10 points to win, 52-42, and advance to the Elite 8 of the Class 4A Girls State Basketball Tournament.

"(Montrose) missed their chance to win it, and we gave a sigh of relief," Moffat coach Craig Mortensen said. "Then we got the tip and went from there."

Senior Jessica Uecker hit the Bulldogs' first 3-pointer of the game 40 seconds into overtime. Forty seconds later, sophomore Angie Charchalis swished another 3-pointer, and Montrose never recovered.

"Those 3s finally got the flow going for us," Uecker said. "We had been tight all game, and we needed that adrenaline rush to show up."

Offensively, neither team was spectacular Friday night. Montrose had one player, junior Britney Creamer, in the second and third quarters. Her 13 points in those 16 minutes kept the Indians in the game.

Moffat's offensive numbers weren't too impressive, either. No Bulldog had more than one field goal in any quarter until the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter, a player on each team found a way to score.

In the Bulldogs' case, the scorer came a bit as a surprise. Sophomore Jorgiea Raftopoulos hadn't scored in double figures all year until Friday.

In the fourth quarter, she drove to the basket on three straight possessions and scored two baskets and one free throw. She finished the night with 10 points.

"They were focusing so much on Angie and on help-side defense," she said. "I was able to get around them and I had my best night on offense this season."

Mortensen was impressed with his second player off the bench.

"We were waiting for somebody to step up all game," he said. "Then Jorgiea started taking it to the basket."

Montrose's Lauren Becker shot the lights out. Becker didn't make a shot all night until she hit a 10-footer 40 seconds into the fourth quarter. Then she nearly won the game by herself. She hit four 3-pointers in two minutes to turn a seven-point Bulldog lead into a tie at 35 with 3 minutes, 13 seconds left in the game.

Both teams hit big shots in the next two minutes to bring the score to 40-40.

Each team had a chance to take the lead with less than 20 seconds left, but a traveling call stopped both chances.

In overtime, the Bulldogs showed how they earned a No. 1 seed -- with a balanced attack on offense. Moffat spread out the scoring with points from Charchalis, Raftopoulos, Uecker and sophomore Markie Workman.

"We needed to prove to ourselves we could win a close game," Mortensen said. "This was great for us."

Although the win was great for the Bulldogs, it wasn't pretty.

Neither team found a rhythm on offense for most of the game.

The Bulldogs were called for traveling nine times, which included a walk with about 10 seconds left that negated a chance to win in regulation.

Too often for Mortensen's comfort, the Bulldogs passed up open shots and didn't have patience to find other open shots.

"Montrose's defense did that to us," he said. "But I was surprised we were so tight on offense, because we looked loose before the game."

But what the Indian defense did to the Bulldogs, Moffat County did back two-fold.

Moffat held Montrose to a season-low 19 points in the first three quarters. Behind Becker's 14 points, the Indians scored 21 in the fourth quarter.

"We played good enough defense to get us the win," Mortensen said.

Uecker agreed with Morten--sen.

"Defense has won us games all year," she said. "On offense, it wasn't us tonight, but on defense, we looked the same."

Overall, Mortensen was proud of how everyone on the team contributed.

"All seven girls hit a big shot, got a big rebound or made some key play," he said. "We did it as a team. It wasn't flashy, but everybody contributed something to get us past this round."

The scorebook showed the even effort from the Bulldogs. Raftopoulos was the only Bulldog to score more than one field goal in a quarter. Workman, Moffat's leading scorer, had a single field goal in every quarter and in overtime. She hit seven of 12 free throws for a game-high 17 points.

The Bulldogs play at 3 p.m. today at Brownson Arena for a chance to reach the Final Four for the first time in 13 years.

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