Lady ’Cats start season strong in Limon #10 IHS, #2 LHS clash in tourney finale

Ignacio’s Avaleena Nanaeto (35) dribbles between two Ordway-based Crowley County defenders during the Limon Invitational’s first semifinal Friday, Nov. 30.
Ignacio’s Charlize Valdez hangs in the air for a runner over Ordway-based Crowley County’s Claire Geringer (25) and Evyn Meyer (10) during the Limon Invitational’s first semifinal Friday, Nov. 30.
Ignacio’s Monica Lucero (20) surveys the scene as Limon’s Amy Weisensee (22) defends during the LHS Invitational’s championship game Saturday, Dec. 1.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Trying to pry out a hint on how to spell a word, National Spelling Bee contestants often ask the moderator for a definition, or how said word would sound in a sentence.

Having just exited the locker room following Ignacio’s second of two games at the Nov. 30-Dec. 1 Limon Invitational and given a small piece of paper, Larissa Gallegos looked in need of either a definition or correct usage for the word scribbled upon it: Sternoclavicular.

The junior forward already knew one thing about that adjective, though: It hurt.

And in a game pitting Class 2A’s tenth-ranked team (IHS) against its #2 (Limon), losing Gallegos—who’d led the squad with 13 points in the previous day’s season-opening 46-35 win over Ordway-based Crowley County—hurt even more against a physical band of Lady Badgers bent on winning the 2018 Limon Invitational.

“The girls came in knowing they had a battle on their hands,” said head coach Justa Whitt, “and it’s only our second game of the season!  They gave it everything they possibly had; I’m super, super proud of their performance today—especially with Larissa going out, and then Charlize….”

As in sophomore guard Charlize Valdez, who also left the game due to a right ankle injury after logging a team-high 13 points against LHS (and ten against CCHS).  Fortunately, her departure occurred with only 1:38 remaining in the fourth quarter; rubbing her right collarbone area after crashing onto the court in pursuit of the ball, Gallegos’ removal had happened barely midway through the first.

Incredibly, the Lady Bobcats didn’t let the incident dictate play; held scoreless against the Lady Chargers, junior forward Makayla Howell kept Ignacio close to Limon through eight full minutes with a late three-pointer and subsequent long two-pointer—cutting LHS’ lead to 8-6.

“They were big, but we’re quick,” said Howell. “I definitely think that helped us keep…their score down.  Our hustle was so intense; we went out there and we played hard…the whole time.”

“Our outside shots have really shown this year,” Valdez said, alluding to the team’s preseason practices.  “And they’re continuing to fall.”

Ignacio scrapped back to 12-9 during the second quarter before the Lady Badgers, helped by bench spark Toni Lopez and starter Jenna Jaklich, rebuilt themselves a sturdier 20-13 halftime advantage. Senior Anna Weisensee then powered inside beginning the third quarter, and Jaklich followed to give Limon the game’s first double-digit lead, but IHS clawed back to as close as 30-23.

Following a long Valdez corner two, Lopez drove hard for a layup and Weisensee then converted a steal into two more points and Whitt wisely called timeout to regroup her troupe.  Sophomore guard Jayden Brunson responded with a clutch trey—not unlike Howell’s earlier—to keep the Lady ’Cats within eight, 34-26, heading into the final frame.

“One of our coaches said that each team has a run, and that’s totally true in these games. One team will go on a run, then the other team will, and it just depends on, like, who stops it,” Howell said. “And I definitely think us hitting those three-pointers made us more positive and confident about our shots.”

“Jayden was looking a little scared,” recalled Whitt, “and I kind of ripped on her [during halftime] in the locker room: ‘We need you to get in the game!’  We needed her shot, you know?  Missing Larissa’s…we needed Jayden to step in.”

But eight points would be as close as IHS would get, via a free throw by freshman guard Avaleena Nanaeto—trimming Limon’s lead back down to 40-32—with roughly three minutes remaining, as the home team (which blasted unranked Colorado Springs School 48-18 on Day 1) went on to prevail 45-35.

“We’ve never been up here, so it was pretty nerve-wracking coming to their house and not playing them in a different atmosphere,” Valdez said.  “So it was a real experience this first time.”

“All in all, I think that for our first performance it’s not bad.  Not the best we could have done, but with nerves and…a big road trip to start the season—huge!” Whitt said.  “We never have done quite this big of a trip to start a season; the kids are used to that at the end of the season, but not to start it!”

Howell finished with 11 points in the loss, while Nanaeto followed up her four-point birthday-day effort against Crowley County with five against LHS.  Sophomore post Shelcie Gosney (ten points versus CCHS) and senior guard Kiana Valdez (seven versus CCHS) were held scoreless against Limon.

Lopez and Jaklich each registered 11 points to pace LHS (2-0 overall), and Weisensee finished with nine.

The Lady ’Cats also shot just 14-of-32 from the foul line in the two games, a figure Whitt knows will improve, but lowered their foul count from 25 against CCHS (which hit 16-of-38 in that contest alone) to 18 against the Lady Badgers.

“It’s a whole new situation with all of them, me, my staff, and all of us getting to know each other still,” said Whitt, now in her second stint helming the program, “but I feel we’re going to come through and be just fine.”

“They’re super-tenacious girls, and they’re fired up, ready to get it.”

Ignacio (1-1 overall) was to begin 2A/1A San Juan Basin League action Tuesday, Dec. 4, at home versus Dolores, but results were unavailable at press time.  Crowley County (1-1) defeated CSS (0-2) 48-38 in the Invitational’s third-place game.

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