Fri Mar 16th, 2018
Special to the Drum
Tags: 2A State Championship, Allisianna Baker, Avionne Gomez, Budweiser Events Center, Charlize Valdez, Great Eight, Holyoke, Ignacio, Ignacio Bobcats, ignacio high school, Kiana Valdez, Lady Cats, Lady Dragons, Larissa Gallegos, Makayla Howell, Morgan Herrera, Trae Seibel, Yuma, Yuma Lady Dragons
Seeded eighth, IHS pressures #1 Yuma, #4 Holyoke
Badly needing energy offensively, after opponent star, Grace Dille converted a three-point play, increasing Holyoke’s lead to 36-26 early in the fourth quarter, sophomore Morgan Herrera responded with her own ‘and-one’ conversion.
And though down seven points, the closest they’d been since trailing 21-18 at halftime, Ignacio still had six minutes and 21 seconds in which to take that spark, kindle a comeback, exit the Budweiser Events Center with the program’s first-ever State Championships victory, and survive to see the season’s final day.
Twenty ticks of the clock later, the flames of hope were all but extinguished as Herrera was called for a questionable fifth personal foul – allowing Lady Dragon junior Kaylee Camblin to sink a pair of vital free throws and rebuild the pad to a more comfortable nine points with 6:01 left.
IHS junior Kiana Valdez, who’d been all but targeted by the officials during the consolation-bracket semifinal’s third quarter and hit with a ridiculous four personals, would be disqualified with 3:45 remaining, and despite senior Avionne Gomez closing out her career with – what else – a three-pointer, Ignacio’s outstanding 2017-18 campaign came to an end Friday, Mar. 9, with a 45-35 loss.
“It wasn’t the ending that we wanted, that we worked our butts off for, but it is what it is and I’m so proud of the girls and their efforts,” skipper Trae Seibel said. “Being a first-year head coach, it just goes to show you that it’s all about the girls and their ability. So, all credit and all glory go to those girls.”
Clashing not only against the 6’1” Dille, who came into the three-day tournament averaging a reported 12.7 points and 14.8 rebounds per game, but also often against the 5’8” Camblin or 5’8” sophomore Victoria Race down low, Herrera finished with five points while Gomez managed eight.
“I know Ignacio; I used to coach the boys back in the day,” said HHS head coach John Baumgartner, alluding to Holyoke’s 2010 win over IHS in the 2A State Championship, when Seibel was a senior. “They’re aggressive, and they played their hearts out. And Coach Seibel … I felt bad going against him, but he’s done a great job with that program.”
“He’s got a good nucleus,” he continued. “We knew we had to shut those two down; that’d make it hard.”
Seeded fourth in the ‘Great Eight,’ Holyoke also had to hound freshman Charlize Valdez, who booked a team-high nine points with four coming during a dead-even first quarter after which the score stood 7-7. And though it may not have looked like an explosion of offense, the Lady Dragons were well aware that on Day 1 the previous afternoon, #8 Ignacio was dead-even, 8-8, and showing no fear against undefeated 1-seed Yuma.
And against YHS, the Lady ’Cats had been as close as 14-12 late in the second quarter and went into halftime down 17-12 as the Lady Indians alertly blanketed both Gomez and Herrera during the last ten seconds. The third quarter of each contest, however, proved to be IHS’ Achilles’ heel – if for no other reason than Seibel’s squad was running low on fuel after such fast-paced first halves.
Led by five points from junior standout Cody Robinson and a closing trey by senior Avery Whitehead, Yuma won the ‘Great Eight’ date’s third by a 16-5 margin. And with Dille logging six of her game-best 16, Holyoke won the third by a 12-6 count. Coincidentally, YHS and HHS each went into the respective games’ final frames with 33 points, while IHS had piled up just 17 on Day 1 and 24 on Day 2.
“We remembered them very well,” Kiana Valdez said, speaking after a 39-29 loss to Yuma and alluding to last season’s 43-18 setback against the same bunch. “Our game plan was to come out strong, scare ’em a little bit … because they were overlooking us. They’re just a really, really good team.”
As she’d done last March, Robinson finished with a game-high 19 points and Whitehead managed seven, but junior center Chasey Blach could only manage six against Herrera and the low-post array of sophomores Larissa Gallegos, Makayla Howell and senior Allisianna Baker.
“We did a really good job slowing down … Blach,” said Valdez, “but on the outside we just didn’t do a very good job. We were going to be really up in their face and always know where they were at, and I think we kind of slacked on that.”
Converting a three-point play with 9.6 seconds left, Gomez finished with ten points against YHS while Kiana Valdez registered five and Baker four. Herrera and Charlize Valdez each booked three.
On Day 2, Holyoke sophomore guard Taeryn Trumper complemented Dille well with her 12 points and relentless backcourt play, and junior Savannah Burris chipped in seven – all coming via eight free-throw tries. Able to get to the stripe no matter how obvious or disputed the foul call, HHS finished a devastating 20-of-26, with Dille – the Lady Dragons’ lone senior – going 7-of-10. Ignacio was just 6-of-15 collectively from the foul line, after going a promising 7-of-9 against Yuma.
“Coming back after losing a tough one last night – both teams had to come back in this 8:45 game – I thought our girls came out from the get-go,” Baumgartner said. “We tried to attack and finish around the free-throw line; that’s the easy way to get free points … and we’ve been shooting well, even in the State Tournament.”
Baker again logged four points in the season-ending loss, while Howell upped her output from two against YHS to seven, and Gallegos from zero to two.
“You know, the girls battled day in and day out, and I’m so proud of all of them and how far we’ve come,” Seibel said, after a stellar 21-4 winter. “It was a great season.”
“The girls didn’t come out scared one bit; they knew that they could compete.”
“We’ll see how we respond, playing three games in a row; we haven’t done that all season,” said Baumgartner, looking ahead to the next day’s fifth-place game. “We’ve played, like, five games in eight days, but not back-to-back.”