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HHS boys struggle to finish

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Photo by Eric Goold Hotchkiss junior Gabe Rodriguez (25) rebounds the ball while Norwood defender Kade Brantingham (34) closes in. Bulldogs sophomore Sam Rodriguez (2) follows the play during tournament game action last weekend in Paonia.

If all of the Hotchkiss High School boys' basketball games play out like their first week did, head coach Eric Hollembeak is in for a lot of sleepless nights.

The Bulldogs battled through four games in five days last week. While they struggled in all four games at some time or another, they did find the winner's touch in their last game against Olathe in the annual First Colorado National Bank basketball tournament. Hotchkiss showed that with some experience, more wins are going to start coming.

Demons 54, HHS 51

In the first game of the season last Tuesday at Hotchkiss, the Bulldogs stayed close and had a chance to tie the game late but faltered, establishing a pattern that would repeat itself later in the week.

Clayton Oxford nailed a long 3-pointer and Zack Allen posted up for two as Hotchkiss jumped ahead 5-3. Oxford scored a bucket, and Allen hit a free throw later on as the home team led 15-14 after the first quarter.

Sam Rodriguez hit a 3-pointer, and the Bulldogs upped their lead to 22-20 at halftime.

"We had a lot of great effort. The kids played outstanding defense in the first half, they boxed out really well," Hollembeak said after the game. "We got a little tired in the second, and they beat us on the boards a little bit in the second half because of our fatigue, I believe."

Thor Ronemus rebounded and scored for Ridgway as the Demons took their first lead, then Ronemus scored again at the buzzer for a 38-33 advantage for the visitors at the end of the third.

Oxford went out with a foot injury, and Gabe Rodriguez fouled out, challenging the Bulldogs' depth.

"We had some younger kids step up and play really well," Hollembeak said. "I was proud of those guys for stepping up and keeping us in the game."

Allen led all scorers in the contest with 21 points. Sam Rodriguez had eight, Oxford scored seven and Jonathan Gonzalez netted five points for the Bulldogs.

Hotchkiss had the ball on the last possession and could have tied it with a 3-pointer, but a turnover in transition ended its hopes. Hasten Beamer led the Demons to the win with 18 points.

Norwood 65, Hotchkiss 57

In the first game of the First Colorado National Bank Tournament last Thursday in Paonia, Hotchkiss fell to Norwood, the No. 8 team in 1A.

The contest was tied 11-11 after one quarter and was knotted 24-24 at halftime.

The Bulldogs got a strong third quarter from Allen, who scored the period's first two buckets. Gabe Rodriguez had a putback, and Sam Rodriguez nailed a jumper as Hotchkiss took a 44-40 lead after three quarters.

Kade Brantingham made two free throws that gave Norwood its first lead, 52-51, halfway into the fourth quarter, and the Mavericks held on to win.

Indians JV 52, HHS 42

Hotchkiss led the Montrose Indians' junior varsity 24-14 at halftime but could not seal the deal in the second half.

"We just needed to make some key shots," Hollembeak said. "We've got to step up and play. We have to take advantage of opportunities when we get them."

Gabe Rodriguez hit a jumper, and Oxford threw in a free throw. Hotchkiss led 27-25 midway through the third. Kalob Mott had a nice underhand scoop for a score and tossed in a 3-pointer as the Indians took a lead they would never relinquish, 35-33, at the end of the third.

Montrose outscored the Bulldogs 17-9 in the final quarter to wrap up the win.

"We've had some decent chances but have not converted in the fourth quarter," Hollembeak said. "At times we've passed the ball well and executed stuff, sometimes we've had some different kids step up in different games and play really well. We just have to have everybody play well on the same night instead of just one or two."

HHS 57, Olathe 50

Hotchkiss completed play in the First Colorado National Bank Tournament last Saturday afternoon against Olathe in Delta. Hollembeak expressed concern prior to the game, but his Bulldogs took care of business on their way to a 57-50 win over the Pirates.

Oxford paced the Bulldogs, with a pair of 3-balls, to a 13-11 lead after one quarter.

The wheels nearly came off the wagon in second-quarter play as the Pirates outscored Hotchkiss 9-6 to take a 20-19 lead to intermission.

Whatever Hollembeak told the Bulldogs at halftime worked wonders. Oxford and Sam Rodriguez dumped in seven points each, and Jonathan Gonzalez added six more to pace Hotchkiss to a 24-15 run in the third frame. Braxton Trujillo contributed another four counters in the scoring explosion.

Olathe's Daniel Vernon hit a pair of treys in the fourth quarter, but the damage had been done. The Bulldogs matched Olathe's 14 points in their final stanza, behind Oxford's eight points, to win going away, 57-50.

Oxford was the game's leading scorer with 25 points, and Gonzalez finished with 15.

"We've got to practice and get better. We've got to run a lot of defensive drills, we've got to rebound better," Hollembeak said. "The simple things are what's hurting us."

The Bulldogs are at Aspen on Thursday and host Vail Christian on Saturday.

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