Cowboys win District 5 team championship; host regionals Friday

Both Rio Blanco County boys’ basketball teams will play in Meeker this weekend in the Region 5 tournament with the host, current District 5 champion Meeker Cowboys, tipping off against the Telluride Miners, Friday at 7 p.m. The Rangely Panthers will tipoff against the Simla Cubs at 5:30 p.m. Friday with the winners of each game playing for the championship Saturday at 1 p.m., with the champion advancing to the 2018 2A Colorado State Basketball Championships. Pictured District 5 champions are: (front) Andy Kracht, Cole Rogers, Doak Mantle, Trapper Merrifield and Kale Burke; (back) head coach Klark Kindler, Johnathan Lopez, assistant coach Trey Morris, Brennan Jensen, Ryan Phelan, Stephen Walsh, Valentin Rosas, Eli Newman, Logan Hughes, Zach Dinwiddie, manager Madison Kindler and assistant coach Matt Dupire. Bobby Gutierrez Photo

MEEKER | Post-season play will continue for the Meeker boys’ basketball team after it won the District 5 championship last weekend in DeBeque, earning the opportunity to host the state-qualifying Region 7 boys’ tournament this weekend. The Cowboys are currently 18-4, seeded fifth in the 2A regional bracket, which features eight regional tournaments, each hosting four teams, all playing for eight spots in the 2018 Colorado State Basketball Championships the following week.

The Cowboys opened the District tournament by beating the West Grand Mustangs 58-39, then they defeated the Vail Christian Saints 62-51 to play Hotchkiss in the championship game, which they won 60-55.

Both Rio Blanco County teams will play in Meeker Friday, as the Rangely Panthers (15-7) will play the Simla Cubs (17-5) at 5:30 p.m., followed by the Cowboys, who will play the Telluride Miners (12-10)  at 7 p.m. The winner of Friday’s games will play for the regional championship Saturday at 1 p.m., with only the winner advancing to the state tournament.

“We last won the District three years ago,” Meeker head coach Klark Kindler said. “Against West Grand, we got off to a slow start.”

The Cowboys trailed 6-9 but jumped on the Mustangs in the second period, scoring 20 points while holding West Grand to a basket.

“They really slowed things down but once we got a lead, we got the tempo where it needed to be,” Kindler said.

Senior Doak Mantle led the team with 16 points, including three three-pointers. Zach Dinwiddie scored 11 and Eli Newman led the team with 10 rebounds. Logan Hughes scored nine for the Cowboys, Valentin Rosas scored seven and Trapper Merrifield added six.

“We got off to a great start against Vail Christian, we were playing well and then had three turnovers in a row that they converted into seven points right before halftime.

The Cowboys led 21-7 after the first period and 33-21 at halftime but the Saints scored 17 in the third while the Cowboys only put up nine to make the game 41-38 going into the final period.

“We were sluggish and didn’t play with emotion in the third quarter and let them cut the lead to one,” coach Kindler said. “In the fourth quarter, we reestablished the inside and built a double digit lead and then made free throws down the stretch.”

In the championship game against the Bulldogs, the score was tied at nine after the first quarter of play, then the Cowboys lit up the score board with 24 points to take a 10-point lead into the locker room at halftime.

“We did not shoot the ball well in the first half and had poor shot selection but then we hit two big three’s before the half to get a 10-point lead.” Kindler said. “We held them without a point for four minutes to start the half and built a nice lead.”

Dinwiddie finished the game with four three-pointers and led the team with 15 points. Hughes scored 13, Rosas also finished in double figures with 12, while Mantle scored nine and Newman added seven. Stephen Walsh hit a three-pointer and Kale Burke made a free throw in the championship game.

The Panthers will tip off against the Cubs at 5:30 p.m. Friday and the Cowboys versus the Miners will follow at Meeker High School.