Thu Dec 20th, 2018
Special to the Drum
Being humbled 53-23 at Kirtland, N.M., Central – the Land of Enchantment’s most decorated girls’ basketball program ever – the previous night was one thing. And not even a bad thing.
“Even though that was a loss it was a good game, a ‘good’ loss,” said Ignacio head coach Justa Whitt. “So we came out rarin’ to go after last night; I was hoping we could get a little closer game today.”
“Absolutely we knew it was going to be tough again, but that’s what we wanted,” she emphasized. “They can’t improve unless they play tough games.”
And after traveling to face the Lady Broncos – NMAA Class 5A State Tournament semifinalists last season, reclassified to 4A this winter – the Lady Bobcats returned to Colorado to host Cedaredge Saturday, Dec. 15, with the guests having reached the CHSAA Class 3A State Tournament’s quarterfinals last season.
Of course, CHS was well aware IHS had advanced to the 2A State Tournament’s ‘Elite Eight’ stage last year, making for an early-season afternoon matchup neither team could downplay.
“Yeah, we came here and our coach made sure we knew they were going to be pretty good,” Lady Bruin sophomore Kammie Henderson said. “It’s good to get different teams … so you don’t always see the same people all the time. You get different competition, you know how different people play so you can expect everything.”
“We knew we had to keep the intensity up from last night,” said IHS sophomore Jayden Brunson. “We really wanted to go out hard and try our best to keep playing. And though we didn’t win, I feel like we kept playing hard the whole game.”
Having visited La Jara the night before and lost by just five points to #4-ranked [CHSAANow.com Class 3A poll, 12/10] Centauri – also 3A quarterfinalists last season – Cedaredge, the aforementioned poll’s top ‘Others Receiving Votes’ team, managed to increase a four-point, first-quarter lead to nine at halftime and ultimately prevail 50-37 inside IHS Gymnasium.
“Towards the end of the game I think some fatigue got us. Especially defensively…little lapses in stuff we wouldn’t normally lapse in,” Whitt said. “But really, we’ve got some offensive work to work on, and that’s o.k.! This is a learning experience, and we play these teams so we can have a learning experience.”
“Larissa [Gallegos] came back a little tonight, but she’s still struggling with that [Limon Invitational] shoulder injury, and Monika Lucero’s still out with her ankle injury,” she noted. “And Charlize [Valdez] was throwing up all last night, so that’s why she was scantly in the game; she just didn’t have the ‘go’ she usually does. Considering all that, I think we did o.k.”
Behind junior Makayla Howell and sophomore Ebonee Gomez, Ignacio – an ‘Others Receiving Votes’ team in the week-starting 2A poll – took an early 7-2 lead before CHS’ Courtney Freeman tied with a three-pointer and Henderson put the visitors up 9-7 with a cleanup and 2:16 left in the first quarter.
Destined to get into a scoring race with Henderson, Howell struck back with a buzzer-beating trey which sliced CHS’ growing advantage back down to 16-12 through the initial eight minutes, but the Lady Bruins got those points back beginning the second stanza as Makayla Kehmeier buried a triple. The Lady ’Cats managed to creep back to 29-21 when Brunson sank her second three of the quarter with 2:00 left, but Cedaredge answered with a Freeman free throw and Kehmeier putback as time expired to take a 32-23 lead into the locker room.
Both sides slowed their pace starting the second half, and IHS (2-3, 1-0 2A/1A San Juan Basin) drew as close as 34-28 when senior Kiana Valdez connected from distance. But Henderson steadied CHS (4-1, 0-0 3A Western Slope) with four points in the quarter, and the Lady Bruins still held a 38-29 lead entering the fourth.
She then booked eight more to finish with a game-best 22, while Howell recorded three more to finish with a strong 15. Brunson managed to make one more three-ball, giving her 12 points, while Gomez totaled five and Charlize Valdez two.
The Lady ’Cats also made just four of their 16 free-throw attempts, while Cedaredge went 5-of-9.
“Our shots weren’t falling, and that’s what happened last night,” said Brunson. “We couldn’t get shots off, but I think we had enough energy to play today.”
“And when Makayla gets hot, she gets hot,” Whitt added, recalling that Howell scored 13 at KCHS. “She got hot for a minute, but then kind of cooled off. Henderson’s shots were falling a little better than Makayla’s were, but it was just that bounce of the rim or not getting it up there.”
“I think that’s just how it kind of falls sometimes,” said Henderson, supported most by Kehmeier (10 points) and Freeman (6). “We really wanted that win, so we came … with, like, vengeance to get it.”
“I mean … it’s our free throws and our little shots,” said Whitt. “We’ve really got to focus on improving that aspect of our game and making better on our offensive plays. “But … we can improve our game, and hopefully we can come back Tuesday … and be more effective.”
The Lady ’Cats were to next host Dove Creek on Tuesday, Dec. 18, but results were unavailable at press time.