Howell, Nanaeto IHS girls’ top postseason picks

Beaming after being announced during pre-game Senior Day (Feb. 15) introductions, Ignacio senior Makayla Howell would go on to make a third trip to the CHSAA Class 2A Girls’ Basketball State Championships in March and ultimately be named both First Team All-SJBL as well as SJBL Girls’ Player-of-the-Year.
Ignacio junior Ebonee Gomez (23) leads a Lady Bobcat rush towards the offensive end after recording a steal against Dolores during regular-season action inside IHS Gymnasium. Gomez was recently named Second Team All-SJBL after helping the team qualify for the CHSAA Class 2A Girls’ Basketball State Championships.
Ignacio junior Charlize Valdez (12) disrupts a pass from Mancos sophomore Rhiley Montoya (13) to junior Tia Imel (5) during this season’s 2A-District 3 Tournament action at neutral Montezuma-Cortez. Valdez was recently named Second Team All-SJBL for her contributions to the State-qualifying Lady Bobcats.
Ignacio sophomore Avaleena Nanaeto (35) manages to, without leaving her feet, block the shot of Telluride’s Katija Kramer (5) during this season’s 2A-District 3 Tournament action at neutral Montezuma-Cortez. Nanaeto’s work at both ends of the court yielded a First Team All-SJBL nod.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Senior, sophomore score statewide 2A salutes

Relied upon to be a frontcourt force by three head coaches in four years, a CHSAA Class 2A Girls’ Basketball State Championships participant three times during that stretch, and the cornerstone of a senior class which compiled an outstanding 71-25 overall varsity record, it was no surprise Ignacio senior post Makayla Howell was recently named the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League’s Player-of-the-Year.

Also a clear-cut First Team All-SJBL selection, Howell suited up for all 24 of the Lady Bobcats’ games (including a forfeit win over Mancos) this winter and totaled 185 points in 23 contested outings – an average of slightly more than eight per.

Should that figure seem low for a POY pick – in any league or classification – there was good reason: She didn’t have to shoulder the scoring load to lead. And opposing skippers took notice.

“They’ve got like six, seven awesome seniors,” Ouray boss Craig Kaminsky said, following his 1A Lady Trojans’ unsuccessful Feb. 15 invasion of IHS Gymnasium (Ignacio cruised, 48-10). “The number-one thing why I love coming down to play Coach [Justa] Whitt and her teams, even though we don’t give them the game that they deserve – we’re just not on their talent level, or experience level – is that she puts pressure on you.”

“Forces you to learn to handle pressure correctly, or fail,” emphasized the circuit’s chosen Coach-of-the-Year, awarded three votes by his colleagues while Whitt and 1A Dove Creek’s Julie Kibel each received two and 2A Telluride’s Timothy Halliday one (Howell was a 5-3 POY choice over DCHS junior Grace Hatfield).

“It was good to see everyone get … a little piece of the action,” said Whitt. “With the league that we’re in, I was in a struggle over who I was going to start! I’d been going by stats, especially on the guards; they’re all so very even that, you know, we’ve got to have something that … gives them a little motivation to get after it.”

And if there was one Lady ’Cat nobody needed tell twice to ‘get after it,’ whether in half- or full-court settings, it was sophomore Avaleena Nanaeto. Never one to let a possible defensive steal escape her, the First Team All-Leaguer registered most of her offensive production (161 points; 7.0 ppg in 23 games played) by either driving hard to the basket, or from the free-throw line, or often times both.

Earning Second Team All-SJBL nods were junior guards Charlize Valdez and Ebonee Gomez. Also active for all 23 of Ignacio’s actual games, Valdez totaled 163 points (7.1 ppg) and Gomez 132 (5.7) while favoring the same aggressive defensive approach as Nanaeto.

All told, Howell logged nine double-digit scoring performances during the 2019-20 campaign, while Nanaeto and Valdez each booked six and Gomez three. Members of Ignacio’s honored quartet were held scoreless just five times combined, but no more than one player was blanked in any one game as IHS finished 18-6 overall.

“They’re the best basketball … program in the SJBL,” stated Kaminsky. “Coach Whitt, and the Coaches Seibel (Trae, Shane) before. They run great programs and have great kids.”

Topping everything off, Howell and Nanaeto were two of 37 Honorable Mention All-2A recipients. Which was a fitting achievement considering the Lady ’Cats held their own against not only All-1A Honorable Mentions Hatfield, Audrey Gibbs (junior, OHS) and Emme Rushing (junior, Nucla) in regular-season SJBL action, but ten total First Team, Second Team or HM All-2A or All-1A talents – including the five First Team All-2A picks, one being POY Kendra Parra of non-league Del Norte – from inside Colorado’s borders.

And for a second consecutive season, IHS threatened to stun powerhouse Limon and ’19-20 Class 2A Coach-of-the-Year Bart O’Dwyer inside the non-league Lady Badgers’ den.

“With the run they made to State,” said Kaminsky, referring to IHS’ undefeated regular-season romp through the league, followed by 2A-District 3 and Region VIII Tournament titles – resulting in the trip to the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colo., “It’s heartbreaking that they couldn’t get a chance to finish it off … before all the start of the pandemic ‘adjustments.’”

Like it? Share it!