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MEEKER I The Meeker Cowboys basketball team gained a berth in the championship game of the annual White River Electric “Cowboy Shootout” Saturday afternoon, but ended on the short side of the stick as they fell to Moffat County 50-46. The Cowboys had advanced to the finals by virtue of two thrilling wins in a 37-35 victory over Crested Butte and a 52-50 overtime redemption against the two-time defending Wyoming champions Little Snake River. Meeker will play a rematch game against Little Snake River in Meeker on Wednesday, Dec. 19. The Cowboys will then be off until after Christmas break.
Thursday evening, the Cowboys had trouble getting the ball to fall in the basket. Two three-point buckets by Nate Walsh and a field goal by Jeremy Musgrave was all the points the ‘Pokes could generate in the first period while Crested Butte tallied all 11 of their points from senior Kane Hamilton. Both teams’ point production fell off in the second period as the Cowboys could only score four. The Titans only tallied five but were able to take a 16-12 halftime lead. Meeker made some halftime adjustments and came out blazing in the third period to overtake the slim lead of the Titans. Walsh and Alex Smith led the way for the ‘Pokes with six and four points respectively to pace the 15 point production and a 27-22 lead. Although Crested Butte outscored the home team in the final period, it wasn’t enough and Meeker withstood a last second shot by the visitors to claim the victory 37-35 and advance in the brackets to play Little Snake River.
Friday night’s game was a rematch between the two teams that played in the Shootout championship last year. Little Snake River won that game last year and went on to have an undefeated season, winning the Wyoming State Championship for the second straight year. This year Meeker jumped out quick on the Rattlers with a 17-11 first quarter lead. LSR closed the gap slightly in the second 9-7, but the Cowboys maintained their lead at half, 24-20. The turnover bug hit Meeker hard, but fortunately the Rattlers couldn’t take advantage in the third period. Meeker held LSR to three points and tallied 12 of their own to take a 36-23 lead into the final quarter. LSR showed grit and determination in the final period as they again forced several Cowboy turnovers, and converted them for a 21 point production while holding Meeker to only eight. At the end of regulation the score was tied at 44 points apiece. In overtime sophomore Raul Lopez hit a three to give the Cowboys the lead, but it was short-lived as the Rattlers’ Garrett Grieve answered with a three. With one minute remaining LSR held a 48-47 lead. Alex Smith converted a free throw to tie the game at 48. Dylan Mobley scored a basket to give the lead back to Meeker at 50-48, and on the ensuing inbounds Jake Phelan snuck behind a LSR player and stole the inbounds pass for a layup and a four point Cowboy lead. LSR’s Grieve hit another basket but Meeker had preserved the victory 50-48.
The Meeker Masonic Lodge hosted their signature pancake breakfast for the teams Saturday morning prior to an interesting and inspiring talk by retired Denver Christian head coach Dick Katte. Katte became the fourth head coach at the Denver school in 1964. Over his distinguished career Coach Katte has amassed 876 victories, eight state championships, 22 league titles and 30 state tournament appearances. He has coached 1,109 games, held more than 3,000 practices, coached more than 2,500 players and endured 740 bus rides. Three hundred of his players have gone on to play college ball but there has not been one Division 1 player in the group. For his lifetime efforts Coach Katte is a member of the Colorado Hall of Fame.
The pregame activities produced two new individual champions. Miguel Cruz, a sophomore from Moffat County, defeated all other contestants in the three point contest, and Kane Hamilton from Crested Butte was crowned the Shootout “Slam Dunk” champion. Hamilton along with Cameron Enterline (Rangely), Tyler Davis (Moffat County), Scott Smith (Meeker) and Raul Lopez (Meeker) were named to the all-tournament team while LSR Connor Lee was selected as the tournament MVP.
The championship game started slow for the ‘Pokes. Scott Smith and Tala Atoafa were the only Cowboys to score while Craig gathered seven for a slim 7-4 first quarter lead. The teams matched points in the second with 13 each, but the Bulldogs held the halftime advantage 20-17. Craig came out in the third and pushed their advantage to 10 at 38-28. Meeker started to claw their way back into the game, but ran out of time as the visiting Moffat County Bulldogs claimed their first Shootout title 50-46.
For the tournament Dylan Mobley and Nate Walsh scored 25 points for the Cowboys. Scott Smith counted 24, Alex Smith 22, Raul Lopez 14, Jeremy Musgrave 1, Jake Phelan 8, and Tala Atoafa 6. The Cowboys next game will be Dec. 19, in Meeker.