Lady ’Cats earn First Team All-League

Ignacio’s Avaleena Nanaeto fires a mid-air pass over two Mancos players during action inside IHS Gymnasium. Nanaeto was recently named Second Team All-SJBL.
Ignacio’s Shelcie Gosney blocks a Cedaredge shot during non-league action inside IHS Gymnasium. Recently named Second Team All-SJBL, Gosney more than held her own against opposing bigs – including the Lady Bruins’, against whom she suffered a season-ending knee injury last season.
Ignacio’s Charlize Valdez (24) stands with mother Cindy and father Chris prior to Senior Day action inside IHS Gymnasium versus Mancos. Charlize was recently named First Team All-SJBL; Chris was recently named SJBL Boys’ Coach-of-the-Year.
Ignacio’s Jayden Brunson (3) stands with her parents prior to Senior Day action inside IHS Gymnasium versus Mancos. Brunson was recently named First Team All-SJBL.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Well aware this winter that any number of opponents might have them on height, the Lady Bobcats were never out of any fight with a senior backcourt of Jayden Brunson and Charlize Valdez more than capable of shooting Ignacio back into a fray; or an opponent into submission. 

“They’re a great-shooting team, and they always have been; they have some really talented young ladies,” 3A Bayfield head coach Josh Kitchen had said, following the Lady Wolverines’ loss inside IHS Gymnasium. “We kind of thought if we’d give them high pressure it might disrupt their ability to swing that ball, get those open threes…. Sometimes they just get hot!” 

And if such outside shots weren’t falling, it was fast-forward into the lane – whether out of desperation or design – in hopes of forcing the enemy to keep pace if hoping to survive. 

“You have to carry the same hustle, the same determination, same drive,” said 1A Dove Creek’s Julie Kibel, after her Lady Bulldogs managed to hold off Justa Whitt’s Lady ’Cats 51-48 inside a howling DawgHouse. “You cannot back off.” 

“We’re looking for everything, just whatever’s open,” Brunson stated. 

“That’s what we preach to the girls,” explained Whitt. “They just have to play their game and they’ll be okay. And that’s all you can do; you have to leave it in their hands sometimes.” 

Recently named the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League’s Coach-of-the-Year, Kibel at the time viewed her squad’s shot-for-shot success against the perennial circuit power as a major plus progressing through the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season. 

“Sometimes you wonder if you’re pushing them too hard, but I saw tonight where it’s paying off,” she’d said. “Just the intensity level, the ability to run the ball, pass the ball, breathe, stay in shape … . We’ve worked and worked just to start building our program, get ourselves into a position to fight like that and play like that.” 

In the wake of IHS’ 10-5 overall result and 6-2 showing against all SJBL (5-1 2A SJBL) resistance, Brunson and Valdez were each named First Team All-League. Joining them from amongst the loop’s 2A members were Mancos’ Madi Hale and Rhiley Montoya, plus Dolores’ Allie Kibel; DCHS’ Grace Hatfield and Kobie Beanland, Nucla’s Ashley Steele and Lisa Sutherland, and Ouray’s Haley Kunz represented the 1A side as First Team picks. 

Likely the league’s most feared scoring threat, having eclipsed 1,000 career points last season as a junior, Hatfield was named SJBL Player-of-the-Year as Dove Creek went 4-0 versus the league’s other 1A squads (NHS and OHS), 10-0 against all SJBL opposition and ultimately 14-1 overall. 

“It means a lot,” Hatfield said, of POY distinction. “I’ve had the same coaches since sixth-grade year – my dad is an assistant coach; that means a lot too. And Julie Kibel, she’s another mom … means the world to me. So it’s pretty emotional.” 

Awarded the Class 1A State Tournament’s No. 7 seed and a Round-of-24 bye, Dove Creek then routed 10-seed McClave in the ‘Sweet 16’ by 20 before their own season then ended in the ‘Great Eight’ via a 40-38 loss at No. 2 Kit Carson. 

Ignacio, meanwhile, also tasted postseason success; as the 2A tourney’s 12-seed, the Lady ’Cats defeated No. 21 Hoehne, 48-32 at home during the Round-of-24, before falling 49-40 at 5-seed Rocky Ford. 

“We have another building block to work on, the fact we didn’t win,” said Whitt. “They have something to reach for.” 

“We had a … lot of senior starters, trying to get the most out of playing in our last year,” Valdez said. Tonight I think we played a hell of a game … and just did our best out there.” 

“It was a crazy roller-coaster,” summarized senior center/forward Shelcie Gosney, named Second Team All-League along with junior guard/forward Avaleena Nanaeto, MHS’ Tia Imel, DHS’ Samantha Castillo, 2A Telluride’s Morgan Watkinson, DCHS’ Tara Buffington and Lexi Gray, NHS’ Haylee Smith and OHS’ Audrey Gibbs. 

Honorable Mention All-SJBL went to Ouray’s River Manley, Dolores’ Akira Edwards and THS’ Margaux Lovely. 



Likely the San Juan Basin League’s most improved girls’ side, a positive COVID-19 case close to the crew denied Mancos probable 2A State Tournament bracket inclusion despite an 8-2 showing against all SJBL teams and an unexpected, Ignacio-matching 5-1 against the 2A talent. 

IHS, however, was a plus-17 over the Lady Jays (10-3 overall; 6-17 last season) in the teams’ head-to-head split. 

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