IHS boys bag 11th straight district-tourney title

From left, Ignacio seniors Kruz Pardo, Daniel Weaver, Kai Roubideaux and Johnny Valdez (Cole McCaw had already returned to a celebratory huddle) show off the 2A-District 3 Tournament's first-place award following a 45-30 win over Mancos, Feb. 24 at Montezuma-Cortez H.S.
Ignacio's Ocean Hunter (32) goes for, and gets a steal from Mancos' Nic Huver (10) during the 2A-District 3 Tournament finale, Feb. 24 at Montezuma-Cortez H.S.
Ignacio's Kai Roubideaux (3) stretches out a shot between Mancos' Caden Showalter (25) and Hunter Hoover during the 2A-District 3 Tournament finale, Feb. 24 at Montezuma-Cortez H.S.
Ignacio's Kruz Pardo (23) sidesteps Mancos' Peyton Suazo (12) during the 2A-District 3 Tournament finale, Feb. 24 at Montezuma-Cortez H.S. Pardo led the Bobcats with 15 points, and IHS defeated MHS 45-30.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Bobcats outlast Mancos in D-3

Sacrificing steering for speed wasn’t what head coach Chris Valdez had in mind.

Though his Bobcat boys were able to take command of the 2A-District 3 Tournament’s championship clash against Mancos early in the second quarter – via a 10-0 burst, giving Ignacio a 20-7 advantage – they also nearly ran their own wheels off and lost control when the road to an 11th consecutive district-level title roughened Saturday afternoon, Feb. 24, inside Montezuma-Cortez High School Gymnasium.

“We tend to panic,” admitted senior guard Kruz Pardo, “and make a lot of passes we … don’t need to. And towards the end of the third quarter, start of the fourth, we figured out that if we just thread the ball, make … nice, crisp, bounce and chest-passes where everybody wants to catch them … they’re going to catch them. We had to call timeout, take a couple deep breaths.”

Having seen their earlier advantage trimmed down to just 24-22 at halftime, and erased completely – by an Anthony Medina free throw with 1:03 left in the third – before a Pardo FT gave the San Juan Basin League’s preeminent muscle machine a shaky 31-30 lead entering the home stretch, the ’Cats refueled mentally and went on to race away in style.

“We got a little lead on them and let them back in the game – at that point I knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Valdez said. “And at the end, that fourth quarter, we were tired … but you could see the look in your seniors’ eyes that, you know, ‘We’re not going to be the one team … not to get a district championship!’”

“I saw Kruz attack the basket that one time, hit that layup, and junior Lawrence Valdez with that little ball fake and layup … and I was like, ‘It’s time. They’re going to do it,’” he continued. “And I just kind of sat back and let them do their thing, and they outscored them 14 to zero that last quarter!”

Both guards drove hard for aggressive, physical layups beginning the final eight minutes, senior center Kai Roubideaux twisted inside for a hoop, and senior Johnny Valdez confidently drained a three-pointer for a 40-30 lead with 5:33 left.

The Blue Jays took a timeout, but after failing to produce at the offensive end, saw Ignacio accelerate the pace even more with Lawrence Valdez slotting a perfect bounce-pass through traffic to Johnny Valdez cutting along the baseline for a layup and 12-point pad.

“Spacing was definitely vital … in pushing the ball,” stated Pardo.

And after coming in off a 52-27 romp over Ridgway in the previous afternoon’s semifinals, there would be no more letting up. Roubideaux would add one more hoop, Lawrence Valdez one more free throw, and MHS was unable – after senior Peyton Suazo missed the front of a one-and-one at the foul line with 0:36.9 remaining – to avoid a shutout stanza in falling 45-30.

“We came out and we didn’t look good, I thought,” Valdez said, his team leading 10-7 after the first frame thanks to a Pardo triple with 56 ticks left. “But – especially – as tired as we were, we got them tired too. We knew their shots weren’t going to be on if they did get a shot off against our zone, and we could get the rebound because we’re in good position.”

“We were tired, we knew that they were tired,” said Pardo, “but we’ve been working our butts off all season – conditioning, running – so … we wanted to push the ball, get some looks inside.”

Roubideaux finished with nine points, but more importantly was able to help keep Mancos’ Caden Showalter occupied defensively and the sophomore big finished with just two points and no baskets. Pardo led all players with his 15 points, Lawrence Valdez totaled ten, and Johnny Valdez seven.

Senior Caleb Yoder booked a gutsy 13 points in defeat and Medina finished with seven, but just one after intermission as the Jays managed just two field goals in the third and fourth quarters combined.

“No one said a word,” Pardo said, recalling the team’s huddle prior to the fourth. “We were not about to give up … no matter what. Everybody … just had this look on their faces; we knew what we needed to do and we got it done!”

Up next, Ignacio (17-4 overall) will host Region VI and first face Denver Christian at 4:45 p.m. Friday, March 2, with the winner then battling either Limon or Hotchkiss – participants in that night’s 8:15 game – at 2:45 the next afternoon for a berth into the ‘Great Eight,’ Mar. 8-10 at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland.


LHS will enter IHS Gymnasium 16-5 overall after having a three-game win streak cut off by Byers, 68-59, in the District 4 Tournament’s Feb. 24 finale. A tough out in all their setbacks this season, the Badgers’ last three losses – including 2/10 at Strasburg, and 2/9 versus BHS – have come by just 11 total points, and their five this winter by 21.

Coincidentally, their most recent win came at DCHS’ expense – and by 18 points, 49 to 31 – in the D-4 semis, leaving the Lakewood-based Thunder 9-12 overall prior to a 65-51 win over Littleton Front Range Christian in the third-place test.

“We are excited about … playing Ignacio,” said skipper Ben Dirksen. “Part of the joy of the State Tournament is having the opportunity to play teams we normally don’t get to see on a year-in, year-out basis, and this matchup definitely fits that.”

“We have a young group who love a challenge, and there is no better challenge than traveling to top-ten Ignacio.”

HHS, meanwhile, will arrive standing 14-8 and looking to avenge a 60-55 loss to Meeker in the D-5 finale. Also not to be underestimated, the Bulldogs’ previous two wins in that tournament were of the upset variety; seeded fifth of eight surviving teams after three play-in games were contested, Hotchkiss first defeated 4-seed Paonia 68-63, then stunned #1 Rangely 59-46 to meet the #2 Cowboys.

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