Fri Mar 12th, 2021
Special to the Drum
Tags: 2021 Class 2A State Tournament, 2A/1A San Juan Basin League, Bobcats Boys Basketball, Brady McCaw, Bryce Finn, chris valdez, Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA), COVID-limited 2020-21 regular season, DCHS, Dove Creek, Dylan LaBarthe, Gabe Tucson, Hayden Tealdi, Ignacio Boys Basketball, Jace Carmenoros, Joe Garcia, Kade Hankins, League Tittle, Telluride MinerDome, The DawgHouse, Unbeaten, Zane Olguin
Road wins likely clinch early State date
Slow out of the gate for the second time in three days, once the Ignacio boys found their pace both of their upset-primed enemies were left eating dust as the COVID-limited 2020-21 regular season came to a close.
Crushing the confidence of Dove Creek, incredibly able to race out to an early 12-3 lead Thursday, March 4, inside The DawgHouse, the Bobcats hurriedly took a 20-12 upper hand before the wild first quarter expired. Visiting Telluride’s MinerDome on the 6th, IHS went into the second stanza having gained a similar 20-13 advantage after THS had fought bravely for a 13-11 lead – appearing capable of withstanding the sort of outside shooting which had ultimately doomed the Bulldogs.
Unfortunately, the Miners would also collapse as the ’Cats completed a perfect 8-0 dash through the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League’s 2A members, as well as a 10-0 romp through all SJBL squads seen. Draining 11 three-pointers in each contest, Ignacio rode two Joe Garcia third-quarter treys to a 64-44 win at DCHS, and five Bryce Finn triples at THS to a 76-39 victory.
“They have some talent!” IHS skipper Chris Valdez said before exiting the ’Dome, of the 2A Miners but effectively also the 1A ’Dogs. “That big guy, he’s tough, and they’ve got some nice ball-handlers, got some shooters – and they jumped on us a little bit. We missed some easy ones early and got out of rhythm, but finally got back on track in the second quarter.”
“We haven’t won an undefeated league title all my four years of high school; we’ve always dropped at least one league game,” said Finn, who netted eight total threes and racked up a team-leading 36 points, 20 versus Telluride. “This year we didn’t – it feels great to win out.”
“Undefeated in league…. We just wanted to finish on a high note, get the highest seeding we can for State,” Garcia said, looking forward to the Colorado High School Activities Association’s March 8 bracket reveal. “They came out swinging … were tough teams at the beginning, but they got gassed quick in the second half.”
“And we knew what to do; we’re a second-half team, I feel like,” he added. “We’re always referring to the third and fourth quarters, and always going hard – extra hard – in practice.”
Frighteningly consistent, Ignacio (12-2 overall) outscored Dove Creek 39-14 after intermission, helped by four Brady McCaw threes, and Telluride 39-15 with three Finn bombs fueling a postseason-promising 25-point final frame.
“They came out just hitting everything; the ball just kept bouncing their way,” said McCaw, who booked 14 points against DCHS and 16 against THS. “But luckily in the second half we were able to get more bodies on people, get rebounds so there were not as many second-chance shots – and we started getting more second-chance opportunities.”
“We kind of just calmed down, stopped being so nervous,” he noted. “And we just focused on making our shots and moving the ball around, playing good defense. Trying not to get too excited – I think that was the major change.”
IHS’ young reserves, however, couldn’t wait to close each game out – particularly in Telluride, where Jace Carmenoros, who’d cashed six treys during JV action Feb. 23 at Dolores, logged Ignacio’s last long-distance make, and Zane Olguin managed an unexpected blocked shot to convincingly bury the Miners (2-10, 2-9 San Juan Basin, 1-7 2A SJBL).
“I think they were excited to get in there one last time,” said Valdez. “I think they know this is the last opportunity they’re going to get … the rest of the year; the rest of it’s going to be for those starters – those seniors especially – down the stretch. Win or lose we’re going to be going with who we got here with.”
Incendiary early on and featuring a slick turnaround jumper when posted up against shorter guards, junior Gabe Tucson racked up 18 points against THS, and also registered 11 against Dove Creek.
“I just kept my composure,” he said. “I was confident about the games, but wasn’t overconfident; I just knew I had to step up, help the team somehow. And that’s what I did.”
Often a fearful runaway train when in transition, senior forward/center Dylan Labarthe reached double digits at DCHS and totaled 19 points in the conquests, while Garcia’s combined count hit 13 – including a happy-birthday eight in the defeat of Dove Creek, believed to be IHS’ 250th overall varsity triumph (against 59 losses) since joining the SJBL for the 2008-09 season.
“For the seniors, I’m glad they got a win in their last league game – and hopefully that helps us earn another home game, but we’ll see how the rankings go, you know?” said Valdez, alluding to CHSAA’s approaching bracket announcement. “We’re going to focus … now and look forward, not back.”
Senior guard Jack Courter paced Telluride with 12 points and senior center/forward Hayden Tealdi – the ‘big guy’ Valdez had mentioned – battled for nine, but only one after halftime. DCHS’ jump-hooking big Hayden Gray, the Bulldogs’ lone senior, scored 16 points (12 in the first quarter) against Ignacio and sophomore guard Kade Hankins posted 15.
UPDATE: On Monday, March 8, the Association’s 2021 Class 2A State Tournament bracket reveal showed the Bobcats as receiving the No. 10 seed and an initial Round-of-24 home game Tuesday, March 9, versus No. 23 Crested Butte (8-4, 4-2 Southern Peaks). Results from the 7 p.m. clash were unavailable at press time.
Included in Quadrant III, the victor would advance to the ‘Sweet 16’ stage to test 7-seed and first-round ‘bye’ recipient Sanford (9-4, 5-1 SPL) – coincidentally Ignacio’s very first opponent this season – on Thursday, March 11.