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MEEKER I The Meeker Cowboys won the District 5 tournament in Kremmling in convincing fashion Friday and Saturday with victories over Paonia on Friday 62-43 and West Grand on Saturday 70-56. With the wins, Meeker received the top seed in the Region 5 tournament this weekend in Grand Junction at Colorado Mesa University.
Friday in Kremmling, the Cowboys started the semi-finals of the tournament against the Paonia Eagles whom they had already beaten twice during the season. The Cowboys wasted no time getting on the scoreboard as Cooper and Gable Smith paced the ‘Pokes to a 16-11 first quarter lead.
Meeker increased their scoring in the second with Trey Morris accounting for the majority of the quarter’s points. At halftime, the ‘Pokes had posted an 11 point halftime lead 35-24. Meeker seems to get rejuvenated on defense over the break and the third period was no exception. Holding the Eagles to just six points, Meeker again increased its lead to 15 at the end of the third quarter 45-30. A 16-12 run in the final game propelled Meeker into the championship game against the West Grand Mustangs who earlier in the day upset Hayden. Cooper Smith led all scorers in the game with 19 points.
Saturday’s championship tilt marked the fourth time in the past six years the Cowboys have had the opportunity to play for the trophy. West Grand wasn’t about to give up the gold on the home court easily. The Mustangs quickly jumped out to a nine point lead on the strength of solid three point shooting to end the first quarter up 23-14. Having faced deficits that large this season, the Cowboys began their workmanlike effort to get back into the game. Shutting down the West Grand’s offense and limiting them to three field goals and four free throws in the second quarter Meeker’s offense regained command of the game 34-33 at the halftime break. The third period was a defense effort on both sides, but Meeker was able to gain the upper hand in the quarter, and a 50-39 lead to start the fourth period. Meeker used free throws to put the game away in the final period shooting a torrid 12 of 15 from the charity stripe while also canning four field goals. The final score 70-56 brought the championship trophy back home to the Cowboys trophy case after a two-year hiatus.
Saturday’s championship marked the third District 5 tournament championship in the past six years for Cowboy coach Klark Kindler. With the win Meeker will now be the number one seed in the regional tournament that begins Friday in Grand Junction. The ‘Pokes will square off against the Del Norte Tigers (16-7) in their first game at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Colorado Mesa University gymnasium.
Preliminary scouting reports have the Tigers as a team that averages 6-feet in height, a very scrappy bunch that play good defense. Should the Cowboys prove victorious in the game against Del Norte, they will play on Saturday against the winner of Lutheran (13-9) vs. Telluride (11-9). Many pundits are predicting a Meeker vs. Lutheran game on Saturday with the winner advancing to the Elite Eight and the state tournament in Pueblo next week.
Lutheran has played a vigorous schedule this season and should prove to be a good challenge for the Cowboys. Championship game time is set for 12:30 p.m.