Fri Jan 5th, 2018
Special to the Drum
Earlier this season, Ignacio head coach Chris Valdez had a chance to compare his 2017-18 Bobcats to his squad from just a couple years ago, and the result was quite promising.
“You know, I look back at the year when we had Wyatt (Hayes), Tucker (Ward) and Anthony (Manzanares) as our guards,” he began, “and we’ve got Johnny (Valdez), little (Lawrence) Valdez, Cole (McCaw). We have Kruz (Pardo) when he’s done – has to sit out … a third of the season – and when we get those four all together … And then our posts are as good, if not better … so are we as good a team as that?”
“I don’t know, but we can be … if we work towards it.”
“We just need to work on our big men getting the ball more – tossing it into the middle – and working on our free throws a little bit,” added guard Lawrence Valdez, a junior. “Our conditioning’s alright, but we could be moving faster down the court.”
Any and all holiday-break fine-tuning will be on display this weekend, Jan. 5-6, as the Bobcats ring in 2018 properly at the Southwest Colorado Classic (a.k.a. 4 Corners Classic), hosted this year by Bayfield – a much shorter drive for IHS fans than Durango’s Demon Dome last winter.
Ranked fifth in the last CHSAANow.com Class 2A boys’ poll before Christmas, Ignacio will also bring a solid 4-1 overall (3-0 2A/1A San Juan Basin League) record into BHS Gymnasium for a highly-anticipated 7:00 p.m. showdown with Jeff Lehnus’ hosting Wolverines (2-4, 0-0 3A Intermountain).
In the preceding first-night contest, DHS – survivors of a slim 61-54 road win at 2A Telluride their most recent (Dec. 21) time out – will take on former 4A/5A Southwestern arch-nemesis Montezuma-Cortez at 5 p.m.
Under veteran skipper Alan Batiste, Durango will enter the tournament 2-6 (0-0 SWL) overall, while Michael Hall’s crew stands 3-3 (0-0 IML). Being as though IHS competed at M-CHS’ “Rumble in ‘The Jungle’” last month, the ’Cats should be relatively ready for their 3 p.m. test on Day 2 against the Panthers, with BHS then battling the Demons in the 5 p.m. closer.
Having already shown the ability to sprint up and down the floor, and shoot from long range with just about anybody – a recognized hallmark of Ignacio Basketball no matter what year – Valdez mentioned depth as about his only serious concern going into the Classic.
“We’re just probably not as deep as we need to be, but that’s why we’ve got the young guys out there; we’ve got to work on them and try to get ’em ready.”
“When our normal five are in the game we’re as good as anybody,” he’d stated later at Montezuma-Cortez’s Rumble. “It’s just keeping those guys out there and not making mistakes we’ve made – try to not turn the basketball over, be a little smarter with it, and try to score consistently throughout the game.”
“But we bring somebody off the bench and it really … there’s always a hole out there,” he continued. “But that’s the learning process; we’ve got to get them caught up.”
After the tournament Ignacio will next play Jan. 12-13, inside IHS Gymnasium versus SJBL threats Ridgway and Telluride, at 6 p.m. and ‘TBA’ respectively.
CHSAANOW.COM CLASS 2A BOYS’ BASKETBALL POLL (12/18)
DID YOU KNOW: Should DHS down M-CHS in the Classic’s opener, it will, from all reports, boost Batiste’s record with Demon Basketball to 100-65 overall. Against the SWL, which Durango conquered last winter en route to reaching the Class 4A State Tournament’s Sweet 16 stage, he holds a 35-32 mark since first being hired for varsity duty before the 2010-11 season.
DID YOU ALSO KNOW: Ignacio will be Bayfield’s fourth top-ten opponent only seven games into their schedule. The Wolverines began their season losing 52-49 at 3A #3 Englewood Kent Denver, then later lost 58-46 to 3A #1 Sterling on Day 2 of Buena Vista’s Demon Invitational, and ended the Old Year with a 56-52 loss (Dec. 16) at 3A #6 Colorado Springs Christian.