Bobcats tear into February with Nucla, Ouray blowouts

Ignacio's Adison Jones (33) takes aim over two Nucla Mustangs for a mid-range jumper during the Bobcats' 79-14 win on Friday, Feb. 1.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Given recent history, it would be tough to believe two Mustangs bookended the game’s scoring — senior Seldon Riddle beginning the first quarter, classmate Matt Larson cashing a put-back at the final buzzer — when Nucla visited IHS Gymnasium on Friday, Feb. 1.

In between those fleeting highlights, however, was exactly what Ignacio fans came to see: Destruction, by 79-14 count, of a San Juan Basin League enemy, with all 12 Bobcats scoring.

In fact, the two most nervous young men in the house may have been not any wearing NHS blue, but rather Ignacio’s Wyatt Hayes and Bo Ward, who would be presented at halftime as members of the school’s Winter Royalty.

Hayes was announced as the freshman prince, and noticeably had more difficulty placing an honorary sash upon princess Chrystianne Valdez — daughter of head coach Chris Valdez — than launching a three-pointer (he’d made two in helping the Cats take a 20-2 lead after one quarter).

Selected from among Ignacio’s juniors, Ward had to execute a similar, but possibly more daunting task: With professional junior-middleweight boxer Elco Garcia standing next to daughter Gabriela, failure was not an option.

Both were seen on the court in the second half, indicating success.

Junior center Justin Carver’s buzzer-beating triple prior to the pageantry had put Ignacio ahead 40-4, and after three quarters — juniors Clayton Jefferson and Kelton Richmond combined for 13 points in the third frame — the scoreboards read 64-7.

Freshman forward Nick Herrera, eager to get his own legacy against Nucla underway, netted seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, while classmate Anthony Manzanares dropped in all six of his points during those last eight minutes to help the Cats seal the deal.

The scary part? Mustang wrangler Samuel Calvert’s starters — Riddle (four points), Larson (four), Cody Jones (three), Shad Salazar (zero), Keenan Brune (zero) — played their last game in Ignacio, with only two sophomores and three freshmen currently on the roster to fill their shoes in 2013-14.

Richmond led the Cats with 14 points, and Jefferson was right behind with 12. Hayes finished with eight, while Carver and soph Adison Jones each scored seven while also dominating the paint. Ward finished with five, and Sam Corrado (four), Austin Haire (two), Sam Mestas (two) and Tucker Ward (one) rounded out the scoring.

NHS frosh Mason Riddle’s three-pointer was his side’s only other bucket.

IGNACIO AT OURAY, SATURDAY, FEB. 2

Clay Zimmerman’s three was the only basket Ouray could manage during a dooming first quarter the following night when the Cats stormed the House of Troy. And though he and the other four Trojan starters all managed to score in the game, Ignacio’s starting five of Hayes, Jefferson, Richmond, Jones and Carver combined for 26 in the opening eight minutes alone en route to an 82-33 blowout.

“We brought three seniors up who don’t play any varsity, so that they could try to score,” Valdez said. “And if we do win a flag [championship banner] — God be with us — then … they get to be on that flag no matter what it says. Because they’ve earned that right. And their teammates worked hard for them; that’s what makes me proud for this team.”

Fifteen Cats suited up and 13 scored, led by 12 apiece from Carver and Herrera. Hayes and Jones each scored eight, Jefferson nine and Richmond 10, but as Valdez hinted, there was no holding back the loudest applause for the backups.

JV call-ups David Storey (two points), Andy Guire (four) and Isiah Valdez each scored in the fourth, in which Ignacio edged Ouray 16-15, to punctuate the win. Valdez drained two treys for his six points, after also burying multiple threes during the junior varsity’s 80-24 win.

“This was probably our lightest weekend. But the fact of the matter is you’ve still got to play the games; the kids still got to come out and be enthusiastic,” Valdez said. “One of the ways we did that was trying to get the first team to work hard, so they could get their teammates in the game who haven’t got to play that much all year.”

“Ignacio’s a great team with a very hard defense to beat,” said lone OHS senior Jacob Fedel (10 points), “but we just had to pushing it to the basket and seeing what we could get.”

“It gives us a lot of confidence going into our next games,” Zimmerman said, “because they’re a tough team, a big team. But we played with a lot of heart and we played hard, so it gives us confidence.”

Improving to 11-3 overall, and 4-0 in the SJBL prior to an anticipated non-league game Tuesday, Feb. 5 at Bayfield (2-12, 0-4 3A Intermountain), the Bobcats meet Mancos tomorrow in circuit play.

Ouray dropped to 3-10, 1-9 after Ignacio’s attack, while Nucla sank to 1-11, 0-9 after hustling home and falling to archrivals Norwood the next night.

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