Fri Dec 6th, 2019
Special to the Drum
Tags: chris valdez, CHSAA, Coach Valdez, Gabe Tucson, Ignacio Athletics, Ignacio Basketball, Ignacio Bobcats, ignacio high school, joel priest, Keegan Schurman, Randall Doyebi, san juan basin league, Tristan Thompson
Unable to extend Ignacio Basketball’s dictatorial streak of district-level championships to 12, the super-young 2018-19 Bobcat boys did fortunately manage, via a 10-10 overall record, to avoid a losing season.
And after, um, losing just one senior, reserve forward Randall Doyebi, to graduation; longtime head coach Chris Valdez has no reason not to expect a more solidified, focused core to take the floor in ’19-20.
“The kids are definitely ahead of where they were when they ended the season last year, which is good,” he said. “They’ve put in quite a bit of time; I’m just hoping they continue to jell and get better throughout the season.”
Featuring senior Ocean Hunter and junior Bryce Finn in the frontcourt, plus the junior duo of point guard Brady McCaw and point/shooting guard Triston Thompson in the backcourt, IHS will tip off the new campaign ranked No. 10 in the preseason CHSAANow.com Class 2A poll, released just before Thanksgiving.
Also eager to get underway will be junior forward Dylan Labarthe, sophomore guard Gabe Tucson and senior guard Keegan Schurman, whose approach to recent preseason scrimmages against teams such as: 4A Durango, 3A Bayfield, 3A Pagosa Springs and 2A Center—has already impressed the boss.
“Keegan Schurman…he did a hell of a job,” said Valdez. “He’s been coming in and showing some leadership already this year, and working his tail off.”
“And then we’ve got Bird Red, who didn’t go out last year, but he’s back,” Valdez continued. “You know, at six-three…he’s really long, can attack the basket, and he’s got a real nose for rebounding; he’s really going to help us in that aspect.”
Ignacio will begin play at the Dec. 6-7 Limon Invitational, where an early-season encounter with the No. 3 Badgers on Day 2 (LHS, 22-5 overall last season, will face Ordway-based Crowley County on Day 1) is possible.
“We’re glad to be going to Limon,” said Valdez. “That’s great for us, just to get to see people we don’t get to see during the year and kind of measure ourselves with what they’re doing, you know?”
The Bobcats will then jump right into 2A/1A San Juan Basin League action with a Dec. 10 trip to Dolores (11-11 in 2018-19), then promptly pause to visit 4A Kirtland, N.M., Central (5-21) two nights later. IHS’ last game of the Old Year will then be Dec. 21 at 3A Cedaredge (5-15), with JV play getting the afternoon underway at 12 p.m.
“One league game before (Christmas) Break kind of gives us a chance to see what’s up with a team in our league, and compare…to each other,” Valdez said. “But also, Norwood dropped basketball—boys and girls—so we picked up Durango, got another good game on our schedule later in the season. Our schedule’s going to be fine.”
And in the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League, likely as tough as ever. Ranked No. 5 in the aforementioned poll, Mancos should again test IHS’ mettle most in a Jan. 21, 2020, visit—all dates, as usual, are subject to change—then defend aggressively on Feb. 18 their revamped home court against an Ignacio invasion.
The Blue Jays finished 17-8 last season, splitting the regular-season home-and-home with the ’Cats, but after winning the 2A-District 3 title eventually qualified for the State Championships where their run ended with losses to Holly and Limon.
CHSAANOW.COM CLASS 2A BOYS’ BASKETBALL PRESEASON POLL: 1.Yuma, 2.Ault Highland, 3.Limon, 4.Fowler, 5.Mancos, 6.Sanford, 7.Denver Christian, 8.Holly, 9.Wray, 10.IGNACIO. Others receiving votes: Edwards Vail Christian, Holyoke, Sedgwick County (Ovid Revere/Julesburg), Byers, Peyton, Rye, Collbran Plateau Valley, Sargent, Swink, Del Norte, Simla, Meeker, Burlington, Paonia.