Fri Dec 22nd, 2017
Special to the Drum
81-52 victory caps IHS boys’ two-day stay
Lasting longer than a regulation varsity quarter, one of the longest scoring droughts witnessed in recent seasons killed off not only the most quality start – considering the opponent – to an Ignacio Bobcat basketball game yet this season, but unfortunately IHS’ hopes of winning the 2017 Montezuma-Cortez “Rumble in ‘The Jungle.’”
“An eleven-minute run where we didn’t score,” head coach Chris Valdez said in amazed disbelief, following a 56-48 loss to Moab (Utah) Grand County – which successfully erased a 15-2 first-frame deficit with 1:05 still left in the second. “You can’t do that and beat a team … that will be top-five, guaranteed, in their division.”
“And I think that’s what we are,” stated senior guard Johnny Valdez. “We made a lot of bad passes, tough decisions … . Which is not something we need for a championship-level team.”
Put into the shoes of so many squads squashed in the past, the ’Cats weren’t about to let another large lead wither and die with a chance to salvage third place on Day 2 (Saturday, Dec. 16) of the event. And despite senior guard Justin Henderson’s Rumble-best 25 points, a rebuilding Basalt roster was no match for Ignacio.
Picking up where a desperate 22-point fourth quarter nearly got them against GCHS, the Bobcats resisted the Longhorns’ best advances through the first eight minutes, and went into the second quarter even at 16-16.
Fearing only Henderson, who netted 12 first-quarter points after dropping a game-best 24 on M-CHS in defeat, IHS built up a 35-26 halftime lead behind the inside play of senior Kai Roubideaux and sophomore Ocean Hunter, a three midway through by junior guard Lawrence Valdez, and a Johnny Valdez free throw with 0:00.9 left on the clock.
Starting to show the effects of a limited bench, the ’Cats slowed during the third quarter as BHS crept back to 41-36 on a hard take by junior forward Trevor Reuss with 2:09 left, but a late Johnny Valdez three-pointer helped Ignacio go into the weekend’s last stanza owning a 50-37 advantage.
Staying relatively free from the foul trouble which hurt worse than, and contributed greatly to the Red Devils’ rally – Grand County finished an outstanding 20-of-22 from the free-throw line – the previous evening, IHS mashed the proverbial gas pedal and burned off every last bit of fuel in their collective tank.
“I kept dribbling the ball off my leg!” Lawrence Valdez quipped afterwards.
Hunter made his way to near point-blank range regularly for the last eight of his team-leading 22 points. Roubideaux, who showed a knack to pass the ball as well as any of the backcourt regulars, booked the last six of his 15. Johnny Valdez’s final four points also gave him 15, and Lawrence Valdez sank one last trey and laid in two more baskets to give him 18 points.
Putting icing on the cake, freshman forward Dylan Labarthe nailed four of five free throws – the last following a hoop which Reuss committed his fifth personal foul, with 57.9 seconds left, trying to prevent – and contributed six points off the bench.
All told, Ignacio scored 31 points in an all-out fourth. Representing the 3A Western Slope League, the ’Horns managed 15, but it came as little consolation with the Bobcats winning handily, 81-52.
“There was a lack of energy; that was one of our big factors … today,” said Henderson. “We just weren’t looking to … score as much as possible. Getting back on defense was another big factor – it’s just all-around.”
Reuss and senior Wylie Hawkins each finished with eight points, but BHS dropped to 1-6 overall.
“We’ve got a month before our next game, so we have a lot of time to build some team chemistry and … just basically start over; it was a pretty rough start for us,” Henderson said. “Like, we go strong but not strong enough.”
Despite improving to 3-1 overall prior to resuming 2A/1A San Juan Basin League work at home on the 19th versus Mancos – results were unavailable by press time – the exhausted ’Cats (2-0 SJBL) shared such a sentiment.
“Mistakes we made, dumb fouls away from the basket … killed us,” Chris Valdez said. “Our guys had some consistency – Johnny shooting, Kai working hard and not giving up – but we’ve got to stay out of foul trouble.”
“Depth was our downfall; we’ve only got five guys who can play at this level, really, right now,” he continued. “The other guys are working on it, and they’ve got to be able to come in the game and at least give us some good, supportive minutes. And right now, we’re not there.”
“On defense, I think we played well. We of course had our blunders, missed a few guys here and there, but you know, we’re learning as a team and trying to bring it together – bring the guys off the bench and help them learn,” said Johnny Valdez, who drilled four threes and logged a game-high 22 points against GCHS.
“That’s going to be a really big thing … after winter break. I think we’ll do alright.”
Limited by two first-half fouls, Roubideaux managed eight points against Grand County while Lawrence Valdez scored seven before fouling out with 2:39 left in the game. With just two points to his name, senior guard Cole McCaw had fouled out with 4:05 left in the third quarter, and Hunter logged as many points (four) as fouls.
Senior guard Masen Ward paced the Red Devils with 14 points, and senior guard/forward Brayden Schultz and junior center Cameron Hoppensteadt each booked eight as head coach Scott Horton benefited from being able to rotate five players at a time on several occasions.
“We came out slow, but I knew we were a deeper team,” he said. “And eventually it took its toll on them, because we could continue to sub and they didn’t have very many … off the bench.”
“We’ve got people that can play no matter … if it’s zone or man, and we’re alright with that. You never know who’s going to score for you ‘that’ night; it could be anybody! It’s a good problem to have.”
In similar come-from-behind fashion, GCHS improved to 6-1 overall (0-0 UHSAA 3A Region 15) with an acrobatic, exciting 68-65 win over the hosting Panthers (3-3, 0-0 3A Intermountain) in the Rumble’s championship on Day 2. Schultz scored a team-best 18 points, and senior Alec Williams spearheaded a second-half charge, wiping out M-CHS’ 11-point lead in fewer than five minutes, with all 15 of his points coming after intermission.
“We always have problems coming out hot early,” Williams said, reflecting on both Red Devil wins, “but what we do best is stick together and battle strong – really try to finish the game harder than we started.”
“It was a tough test,” summarized Johnny Valdez. “I think what we really need to take away from this … is we need to keep attacking the basket, getting contact to go to the free-throw line.”
“We of course had a fourth wind, and a third, and a second … Had good scoring runs, but we just need to keep those throughout the whole game … never slow down.”
“And run plays like in the first quarter [versus GCHS] – we were as good as anybody,” Chris Valdez noted.
With the holiday break imminent, Ignacio will begin the 2018 side of its schedule at the 4 Corners Tournament, to be held Jan. 5-6 in Bayfield with Montezuma-Cortez and 4A Durango also set to attend.