Fri Feb 19th, 2016
Special to the Drum
Tags: Anthony Manzanares, Austin McCaw, Buckaroos, chris valdez, CHSAA Hall of Fame, Cortez, IHS, Kruz Pardo, Miners, Montezuma County, Nick Herrera, Ridgway, San Juan League, Silverton Standard & The Miner, wyatt hayes
IHS swipes last-second win, 38-37
Seventy-five years ago, the Silverton Standard & The Miner reported a shift in the old San Juan League’s balance of basketball power, with its hometown Miners managing a ‘decisive defeat’ of Cortez down in Montezuma County by the incredibly inflated score of … 24 to 13.
Elsewhere on Earth around that time, future Ridgway icon Steve Hill was born, not knowing the impact he’d have upon southwestern Colorado high-school hoops – both the boys’ and girls’ varieties – as a head coach, and certainly not knowing that, approaching 16 years since his CHSAA Hall of Fame induction, usage of a low-key scheme from eras past would nearly topple the current 2A/1A San Juan Basin League’s long-reigning rulers.
“It was tough to stay with … a stall like that,” senior guard Wyatt Hayes admitted after Ignacio’s unusual 38-37 road win.“But we ended up staying with it …i n the end.”
“Honestly, we were just trying to play our game and not speed up,” said RHS counterpart Grant Saville. “And it worked well; we kept moving the ball until we saw an opportunity, then we drove and tried to capitalize.”
Content to weave the ball in and amongst themselves around the three-point arc for as long as it took with no shot clock to worry about, the Demons were able to gradually grind the visitors’ 12-2 first-quarter lead down to 16-14 at halftime, and all but eliminate IHS’ up-tempo, high-scoring style.
“That is something that we don’t do well against, honestly” Ignacio head coach Chris Valdez said. “Against the Green in Sanford it’s the same thing: They slow it down, we get a misstep, there’s a backdoor cut or wide-open shot, and they hit it. And that’s what they did … hit the shots when we made a little mistake defensively.”
With 5:20 left in the third quarter, RHS junior Thor Ronemus tied the game at 20-20 with a strong take and sudden star senior Eli Hagemeyer then followed soon after with two free throws and a driving basket to increase Ridgway’s advantage to an improbable 26-20.
“We’ve played Ignacio – or at least I have – for six years and we’ve never come close to … a game like this, that’s been such a nail-biter,” said Hagemeyer, whose ten points during the period equaled the Bobcats’ output.
“They take third in the state every single year,” he continued. “We just figured if we can slow it down enough to where we can take it possession by possession, play by play, we can be in it. So we just told ourselves ‘Hey, slow it down, be patient, have composure,’ and that was that.”
“You’ve got to lock them down and play good defense,” Saville (8 points) added. “And just not get rattled; they can definitely go on a 20-2 run in a couple minutes – you’ve just got to slow it down and play your game.”
Sophomore Kruz Pardo’s late layup pulled IHS back to 28-26 beginning the fourth quarter, and senior Tucker Ward then answered a Ronemus FT with a critical three-pointer to re-tie the score at 29. Ward (7 points) then sank one of two FT’s with 5:36 left to put the Cats (14-2, 9-0 SJBL) up one, but with Hayes-like confidence Ridgway senior Hasten Beamer soon drained a trey to knot the count at 32.
Still staying patient in their main methodology, the Demons managed to pull ahead, 36-32, via a Saville bucket and then two Saville freebies with only 1:12 left. Hayes (10 points, 3-4 FT), however, drove hard and scored with 0:57 left, then came up with a steal at the other end, yielding senior Nick Herrera’s tying hoop.
Undaunted, Beamer (6 points) then hit the front end of a 1-and-1 with 0:27 left, and RHS (10-8, 5-6 after the next day’s 59-54 loss at Dolores) caught a major break when IHS senior Anthony Manzanares missed the front of his after Ronemus somehow clanked a pair only three ticks after Beamer’s make.
Fouled while controlling Manzanares’ miss, Saville went to the charity stripe for what the home fans expected to be the clinching two free throws, but he inexplicably missed both and Hayes tied up Hagemeyer on the rebound. The Demons had the possession arrow but Hayes wasted little time in stealing the ball, then taking it end-to-end for what would be – after Saville’s desperation three-ball fell just short – the winning layup with 0:04.4 left.
“You’ve got to give Ridgway credit; they played a really good game,” said Hayes. “They slowed us down, made us play a game that’s not how we like to play. We ended up making shots down the stretch and got the win.”
“The thing I took away is that our kids took some clutch shots down the stretch, the right people wanted the basketball, and then everybody stuck together defensively,” Valdez said. “In the huddles it…was like ‘Come on, we can do this! We’re still in the game!’ and here we go with a steal here, a layup here.”
Hawked constantly during the final eight minutes, Hagemeyer (5-5 FT) still booked a game-high 17 points.
“Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to get the ball!” he said. “But I got it, and just figured I had to do something with it … Cloud Nine, that’s where I was.”
“Now we know what we’re capable of,” he continued, looking forward to a possible high-stakes postseason meeting. “And if Ignacio can do it, and we lost by one point, why can’t we?”
Herrera totaled an essential nine points, Manzanares had eight and senior Austin McCaw two for the ’Cats.
“I think that we’re going to play them for the championship of the district; nobody else can touch us,” said Valdez. “And if we can get a third chance at them we’re going to take advantage.”
Up next IHS will wrap up the regular season Feb. 20 at home against Telluride. Results from the previous night’s trip to Norwood, as well as a telling home tilt on Feb. 16 versus 1A Monticello, Utah, were unavailable by the Drum’s deadline.
“This game prepared us pretty good,” Hayes said of facing the Buckaroos (at the time 15-2 overall, 6-0 UHSAA Region 19), “because if it’s a close game we know how to win down the stretch. We need to step up our defense and … on offense take better shots and not rush things.”
“We go into the Monticello game with more of a sense of urgency,” said Valdez. “We can’t come out good and then give up a bunch of points … and let them believe they can beat you. Because they’re a lot better than this.”