Lady ’Cats undisputed in District 3 tourney Girls claim title, will next host 2A-Region VIII

Holding the first-place plaque, Ignacio senior Kiana Valdez (2) bids fans adieu after the Lady Bobcats defeated Dolores 57-23 to win the 2A-District 3 Tournament Sunday afternoon, Feb. 24, inside 4A Durango’s DemonDome.
Ignacio junior Larissa Gallegos tries getting a shot through Dolores’ Erin Brown (14) during the 2A-District 3 Tournament’s first-place game Sunday afternoon, Feb. 24, inside 4A Durango’s DemonDome.
Ignacio senior Kiana Valdez (2) lets fly a long-range attempt during the 2A-District 3 Tournament’s first-place game versus Dolores Sunday afternoon, Feb. 24, inside 4A Durango’s DemonDome.
Ignacio assistant coach Tim Velasquez grins while chatting on the bench with sophomore Jayden Brunson during the Lady Bobcats’ 57-23 win over Dolores in the 2A-District 3 Tournament’s first-place game Sunday afternoon, Feb. 24, inside 4A Durango’s DemonDome.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Earlier this winter, Ignacio head coach Justa Whitt felt she had to challenge her team.

“I put it to the girls: Who’s going to step up and be our scoring leader?  Who’s going to step up and fill those roles that have been filled in the past?” she’d said.  “We kind of haven’t had that yet.”

As it turned out during the course of a 12-0 regular-season romp through the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League, there really proved to be no singular, all-around, game-in-game-out court commander – and that proved to be the nightmare from which the SJBL’s still-slumbering squads still haven’t awoken.

Traveling to 4A Durango High School to begin postseason play at the weather-delayed 2019 2A-District 3 Tournament (rescheduled from Feb. 22-23 to Feb. 23-24), the Lady Bobcats quite simply overwhelmed both Telluride and longtime loop nemesis Dolores to lock up the title and improve to 36-0 in regular- and post-season play against all SJBL opposition since February ’17.

Against THS in the event’s first semifinal, IHS got off to a 16-5 first-quarter start en route to a 48-17 win, but the pace wasn’t pleasing to Whitt and her staff. That would change almost immediately the next afternoon.

Competing in a rare Sunday session, Ignacio took a 2-0 lead on Dolores via an Ebonee Gomez basket, and forced Lady Bears skipper Tiffany Hill to call timeout only 1:25 in and her team already trailing 10-0.

The DemonDome scoreboards would show the Lady ’Cats ahead 14-0 by the time senior Tatum Majors finally got DHS a single free throw with 3:02 left in the first quarter, and would later read 23-5 after IHS sophomore Jayden Brunson easily drained a three-pointer with 0:05 remaining.

That was the sort of onslaught Whitt sought.

“Hopefully we come out even faster next time,” she stated in the wake of a 57-23 conquest, upping Ignacio’s overall record to 15-6 prior to regional-round seeding and placement to be determined Monday morning, Feb. 25.

Getting scoring from nine different players, IHS led Dolores (9-11 overall) 38-14 at halftime and 48-19 through three quarters.  Prone to foul-line struggles at times during the 2018-19 campaign, the Lady ’Cats combined for 7-of-10 (70 percent) accuracy during the final frame to secure the championship, but finished just 13-of-25 (52 percent).

Gomez and junior forward Makayla Howell would each total ten points in trouncing DHS, while Brunson and sophomore guard Charlize Valdez each booked eight points and freshman guard Avaleena Nanaeto and junior forward Larissa Gallegos each contributed six.

Sophomore guard Sydney Smith led the Lady Bears with seven points and Majors managed six on 6-of-8 shooting from the charity stripe.  But as a whole, DHS finished a woeful 7-of-24 (29 percent) and made just eight shots from the field.

Down 24-10 at intermission and 39-13 entering the fourth quarter, Telluride made only six buckets against the Lady ’Cats and went 4-of-15 (27 percent) at the foul line.  Making THS’ lone trey, sophomore Melena Krownapple totaled five points for the Lady Miners – whose season ended on Day 2 against Ridgway – while sophomores Margaux Lovely and Kyra Levan each scored three.

Gomez and sophomore center Shelcie Gosney – who helped keep counterpart Jess Pack scoreless – each scored ten points for Ignacio, while Nanaeto netted eight, Howell five and Charlize Valdez four.

“We’re still missing a lot of little ones underneath the basket, but I’m hoping that’ll come … the next few days,” Whitt said.  “All we can do is keep hammering at it.”

 

STAYING ALIVE

 

RHS got three second-quarter three-pointers from junior guard Geri-June Hall in building up an 18-5 halftime lead and ultimately a winning 34-23 advantage on THS in the third-place game.

Hall totaled a game-high 13 points, while junior Ashley Medina added seven and sophomore Emily Medina five as the Lady Demons improved to 8-11 overall while Telluride – led by sophomore forward Morgan Watkinson’s ten points and senior guard Quinn Beere’s five – ended up 6-16.

 

WHO’S NEXT

 

It was announced by CHSAA that Ignacio will next host the 2A-Region VIII Tournament, Mar. 1-2, as the No. 8 seed out of 32 total teams.

The Lady Bobcats will first battle 25-seed Rangely (10-12; fourth place at District 5), with the winner then squaring off against either #9 Wray or #24 Burlington.  Regular-season runner-up to defending State Champion Yuma in the Lower Platte, WHS – a convincing third-place at District 2 – will come to town standing 17-3 overall, while Union Pacific member BHS will arrive 10-13 after saving third at District 4.

Seeded 30th, Dolores will head north to face #3 Meeker (21-1) at Region III, while Ridgway received the No. 28 seed and will begin Region V work at 5-seed Sanford (17-4).

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