The Hotchkiss High School boys' basketball team finally put all the pieces together.
The Bulldogs executed in a close fourth quarter and gutted out a 59-53 win over Meeker last Saturday night.
The win capped a busy week for Hotchkiss, which fell to No. 5 Paonia before rebounding with the big win against the Cowboys.
The Bulldogs improved to 3-7 overall and are 2-1 in 1A/2A Western Slope League play.
In a season that had previously seen the Bulldogs fail to execute down the stretch in several close games, Hotchkiss rallied to get a lead and then held onto it in the fourth quarter for the win.
"We worked really hard last week just as a team," Hotchkiss junior Zack Allen said. "Tonight we played probably the best we played all season, so it feels pretty good to win like that."
Allen and senior Clayton Oxford formed a dominant pair in the post, using their height advantages and exploiting the smaller Cowboys.
Oxford led all scorers with 22 points and Allen threw in 19 to pace the Bulldogs.
"It just kind of happened that way," Allen said. "He's an all star player. He's great when he's on. And then having me down there, not many people have size that can match up against that."
Darrin Young and Gabe Rodriguez each netted five points in the win for Hotchkiss. Sam Rodriguez had four points and both Eli Kirk and Jonathan Gonzalez had a bucket for the winners.
Hotchkiss came out ready to play and surged to a 17-8 lead after the first quarter. But the gritty Cowboys recovered and the Bulldogs lead was 25-23 at halftime.
Meeker sophomore Logan Hughes, who led the visitors with 18 points, had consecutive baskets at the end of the third frame and Meeker led 46-42.
Allen scored back-to-back buckets to open the fourth quarter and tie the contest. Kirk scored his sole basket of the game and Allen hit another, and the Bulldogs jumped ahead by four.
Then the parade to the free-throw line commenced and Hotchkiss sealed the win. Allen threw in three free throws, and Oxford, Gabe Rodriguez and Sam Rodriguez all sank single free throws down the stretch.
Zack Dinwiddie's bucket for Meeker brought them to within 56-53 with 1:03 left, but Gabe Rodriguez scored in transition and Allen's last free throw provided the final margin for Hotchkiss.
"The key was our lack of turnovers in the second and third quarters," Allen said. "And then composure throughout the game. A lot of games we've had, they'd press us and we'd freak out, but tonight we kept our composure."
The Bulldogs were feeling good with a 2-1 mark in league play going into last night's game at Cedaredge.
"I think now we know how we should play and how we can play," Allen said. "Hopefully we're gonna take it to the other teams at this point."
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