Bobcats score in 64-37 win

Ignacio’s Bird Red (22) takes a hack from Nucla’s Shelton Morgan while attempting a finger-roll during action inside SunUte Community Center Friday evening, Jan. 26. Helped by Red’s team-high ten points, the Bobcat JV defeated the Mustang varsity 64-37, dropping NHS – at the time 0-5 in the 2A/1A San Juan Basin – to 0-13 overall.
Getting Nucla's Mike Bird (left) and Caleb Smith (1) off their feet with a head fake, Ignacio's Rhai Price buys time to either get closer to the basket or pass across the lane during action inside SunUte Community Center Friday evening, Jan. 26. The Bobcat JV defeated the Mustang varsity 64-37, dropping NHS - at the time 0-5 in the 2A/1A San Juan Basin - to 0-13 overall.
Ignacio’s Nakai Lovato (23) splits Nucla’s Mike Bird (20) and Shelton Morgan for a steal during action inside SunUte Community Center Friday evening, Jan. 26. The Bobcat JV defeated the Mustang varsity 64-37, dropping NHS – at the time 0-5 in the 2A/1A San Juan Basin – to 0-13 overall.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

His own squad idle from competition, Ignacio boys’ basketball skipper Chris Valdez joked inside SunUte Community Center that, in search of work, he’d been “promoted” to the junior varsity bench.

What wasn’t nearly as funny, Friday evening, Jan. 26, was that he saw a sort of depth commonly associated with the Bobcat varsity for years – until this winter – devour Nucla’s varsity with a flourish for which the as-yet winless Mustangs, as in years past, had no answer.

And after increasing a 10-4 lead after the first frame to 32-17 at halftime and 49-22 after three quarters – via sophomore guard Bird Red’s buzzer-beating three-pointer from straight away – IHS saved their best for last.

NHS’ Garrett Littlejohn drained a trey late in the fourth quarter, bringing the visitors back to 59-37, and celebrated his first varsity basket with a leap and high-step as teammates congratulated him. But meanwhile, the Bobcats had inbounded the ball and whipped it down to senior guard/long-range specialist Keegan Richmond.

Having already knocked down one triple in the second quarter, following up on sophomore guard Ty-Wren Bear Medicine’s earlier three and putting Ignacio up 32-12 with 1:45 left, and then another with 2:52 left in the game (IHS’ most recent points), Richmond quickly took aim on the wing in front of the locals’ bench, fired up another signature two-handed try, andcoldly swished it through with only 15 ticks left.

The ’Cats roared and rejoiced. They still were not satisfied; the very player first to arrive, by nearly half an hour before any teammate, inside the alternate venue – still had yet to score; but that would change.

After Ignacio regained possession at the defensive end, the ball went to forward Mitchell Neil. And not to be denied, the senior motored coast to coast and banked in a contested layup just before time expired – capping a 64-37 conquest.

Red finished with a team-high ten points, but was bettered by Nucla center/forward Mike Bird’s hard-earned 13, including a surprise second-quarter three and 4-of-4 free-throw accuracy. Also blessed with size to bang in the paint, Mustang Shelton Morgan managed six points – matching teammate Caleb Smith – and was 2-3 from the charity stripe. With seven points, Leo Zunich was the fourth Nucla player nearing double figures.

Richmond totaled nine points in the win, while freshman post Dylan Labarthe logged eight and sophomore Keegan Schurman, freshman Joe Garcia and freshman Adam House each chipped in seven.

Re-ranked tenth in the 1/29 CHSAANow.com Class 2A poll, Ignacio’s varsity (8-3, 6-0 2A/1A San Juan Basin League; Nucla remained 0-5 in league while dropping to 0-13 overall) was to return to action Thursday, Feb. 1, at home versus SJBL foe Dolores, but results were unavailable at press time.

The ’Cats are next scheduled to host Norwood – whom they’d beaten 54-36 away back on Jan. 20 – on Feb. 3, then challenge 4A Durango inside Durango-based Fort Lewis College’s Whalen Gymnasium three nights later.

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