Fri Mar 16th, 2018
Special to the Drum
Tags: Bobcats, Budweiser Events Center, chris valdez, Class 2A State Championships, Cole McCaw, Ellicott, Great Eight, ignacio high school, Johnny Valdez, Kai Roubideaux, Kruz Pardo, Lawrence Valdez, Ocean Hunter
’Cats place sixth, claw down ’Hawks on Day 2
It had taken the Ignacio boys just one minute, 27 seconds to wipe out an imposing 25-15 first-half deficit against Ellicott in the previous day’s consolation semifinal, en route to a season-extending victory.
So, when Ault-based Highland went up 21-7 – via a three-pointer by freshman Jase Bassire – on the Bobcats early in the second quarter of the Class 2A State Championships’ fifth-place game, the Huskies knew the real game on Saturday, Mar. 10, was about to begin.
“We hadn’t played them all season, so it was hard,” said junior post player Koby Anderson. “They’re different [than other league teams], they have every kind of player on their team. We kind of knew what we were getting into, but … we didn’t really have matchups; had to keep up a fight.”
And though it took sixth-seeded IHS a little while longer to manufacture their expected rally, they did, and hacked #4 HHS’ 14-point pad down to just four, 31-27, at halftime after two late baskets by senior Kai Roubideaux.
“We tried to get back in the game like yesterday, and we did,” said senior guard Johnny Valdez. “We were in the position that we wanted to be in at halftime, for sure.”
“We played better once we got into transition defense, which is good,” he continued. “I think that they started getting frustrated and started missing shots; they started getting a little tired too, like we were, and we were able to take advantage of that because … I don’t know; we’re pretty good when we’re tired sometimes!”
“Yeah, they just kept coming the whole game,” admitted Anderson, whose six third-quarter points nearly offset an eight-point Roubideaux outburst and helped Highland go into the season’s final frame leading 50-38. Valdez struck back immediately, scoring the fourth quarter’s first five points, but 50-43 would be as close as the ’Cats would come to the canines in a 65-54 loss.
“Our kids played hard all weekend – and so did that team – but they were able to overcome it a little more. They were able to hit some jump shots and some free throws … got the big lead that we had to come back from, and we used a lot of energy just to come back,” said IHS head coach Chris Valdez. “Kind of drained us by halftime.”
“But we had some spirit because we made a comeback!” he noted. “And we brought it down to six or seven, went back and forth, and we just never could get … two or three good ones in a row.”
“We got a few bad bounces, honestly,” Johnny Valdez said. “Some steals we probably should have got, we’d miss by a little bit and it ended in a layup. So it was unlucky, but we played our hearts out and I’m proud of what everybody’s done.”
In placing sixth and finishing the 2017-18 season 20-6 overall, Ignacio got a game-best 20 points from Johnny Valdez, with junior guard Lawrence Valdez (13) and Roubideaux (12) joining him in double figures. Sophomore forward Ocean Hunter contributed seven points and senior Cole McCaw two before fouling out with 1:36 remaining in his prep career.
Senior guard Trey Allmon booked a Highland-high 17 points and sophomore guard Tate Bessire 11 before he intentionally fouled out with 30.5 seconds left to allow a teammate to substitute in and actively experience the Budweiser Events Center atmosphere. Junior guard Logan Stewart chipped in nine points and Anderson finished with eight – all coming after intermission.
“It feels pretty good,” he said, his team standing 22-4 after a winter’s work. “Kind of sucks losing in the first round [74-59 to 5-seed Meeker], but we’ve still got hardware to show.”
In helping IHS regain a 30-27 halftime lead which grew to 48-40 through three quarters against EHS, Roubideaux blew up for a game-high 21 points before fouling out with 1:17 left in regulation, and was joined by Johnny Valdez (15) and senior guard Kruz Pardo (11) in double figures as the Bobcats conquered, 63-53.
Lawrence Valdez managed seven points, McCaw recorded five and Hunter four, while senior big Jacob Tuufuli led the eliminated Thunderhawks with 16 points and had help from freshman Clay Sanger (14) and senior Kyle Ager (12). Sanger accounted for all four of Ellicott’s treys, while Roubideaux and Johnny Valdez each drained three of Ignacio’s eight.
“That run that caught us up going into halftime changed it for us, and we came out knowing we could beat ’em and we got it into our heads what we had to do,” Chris Valdez said, “Changed the whole dynamic of how we were playing.”
“We just had to push the tempo, get a lot of shots,” Roubideaux said. “We had to attack the defense especially … because they were playing zone. Attack the middle, and you had shooters wide-open on the outside.”
“Our one-guard, four-post set out-matched them,” he added. “I think our speed got the edge on them.”
“We knew it was going to be a tough game; they took a really bad loss yesterday and we knew they were better than that,” said Johnny Valdez. “They might get a little lead on us, but we knew when to really strike: When they got tired. Their big guys got really tired on the bottom of that zone, and we were really able to take advantage of it – Kai took advantage of it wonderfully, just hit so many shots in the corner, or attacked the basket and got the ball to me, got the ball to Cole.”
“Yesterday was really like … we lost sight of our team, so resiliency was really important today.”
Prior to facing 7-seed Ellicott on Day 2, the Bobcats had begun ‘Great Eight’ play with a 65-44 loss to #3 Byers which could have been much worse had BHS boss Jeremy Kerns not called off top Bulldog Austin Davis.
Hustling like, well, a scalded dog right from the start – he’d won the opening tip-off against Hunter – and scoring ten first-quarter points, the 6’3” senior helped Byers bolt out to a 12-0 lead before Roubideaux got IHS going with a triple. After eight minutes, BHS held a commanding 25-12 advantage which grew to 43-27 at halftime as junior guard Brady Shelley stepped behind a teammate’s screen to sink a straightaway three at the buzzer.
He would finish with four three-pointers and an impressive 18 points – all before the fourth quarter commenced with the ’Dogs cruising, 59-34. Senior guard James Linnebur finished with seven points, while 5’11” Zane Mikita and 6’9” Hayden McCuen each came off the bench to book six.
“Byers was just too good for us, and credit to their size,” said Chris Valdez. “Davis is the best player here, and there’s nobody even close, I believe.”
Roubideaux did his best to prove his own mettle, scoring a team-high 16 points. Hunter managed nine and McCaw six, but Lawrence Valdez was held to five points and Pardo four [he’d go scoreless against Highland].
“I’m just excited about the way we started the game,” Kerns said, “because we were hoping we’d be loose. You never know, when it’s your kids’ first chance to play in the State tournament! And the way the game got going, we looked at each other as coaches like, ‘Yep! They’re ready to go.’”
“It was fun to watch. Roubideaux played pretty good too; we told Austin, ‘His best move is the up-and-under,’ and he got Austin on it still three or four times! We’re like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ But the way Austin played on the other side, he was able to give him the head-fake and beat him inside, get some shots. Austin’s one of those players … that doesn’t always come around. He really blossomed this year.”
“It helps to make your first few shots,” he continued, “and then maybe get the Ignacio kids pressing a little bit rather than just being comfortable in their offense – thinking they may need to make a lot more shots than usual. And I’m smart enough to know they didn’t shoot … as well as they usually shoot.”
“I was never one of the kids that was like, ‘I want to play Lakers basketball’ or ‘I want to play North Carolina basketball,’ reflected Johnny Valdez. “I was always like, ‘I want to play Ignacio basketball.’ And … all the seniors this year, we’ve come together, and this was our goal – to make it to the State tournament. The fact that we got a win is just icing on the cake.”