Fri Jan 14th, 2022
Special to the Drum
Tags: 2A/1A San Juan Basin League, Avaleena Nanaeto, basketball, Bella LeMasters, Bobcats basketball, CHSAANow.com, Darlyn Mendoza-Lechuga, Dove Creek High School, Elisia Cruz, Ignacio Lady Bobcats, joel priest, Julie Kibel, Justina Bayles, Kylie Gatlin, Lexi Gray, Madi Hale, Marissa Olguin, Rylee Hickman, Solymar Cosio, Tara Buffington, Teya Yeomans, Trista Barnett
Brunson logs 21 points against 1A’s No. 9
Accustomed to third-quarter struggles so far this season, the Ignacio Lady Bobcats’ typical fourth-quarter intensity again re-emerged Thursday evening, Jan. 6, ensuring that visiting Dove Creek – at the time ranked No. 9 in the CHSAANow.com Class 1A poll – would have to work until the very end, were they to leave town victorious.
Beginning the game’s final frame with six confident points, and ultimately able to bring IHS back to as close as 61-56 with a clutch three-pointer, junior guard Laci Brunson totaled 13 points during the final eight minutes and finished with a career-high 21, though DCHS ultimately prevailed 69-56 after nearly seeing an 18-point advantage disappear.
“We’ve got a big ol’ target on our backs now,” Lady Bulldog head coach Julie Kibel said, alluding to Dove Creek’s status as the team to beat in the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League. “And being on the road tonight, this was a good one for us to get.”
Though Ignacio entered the fourth quarter trailing 56-38, momentum had initially swung away from the Lady ’Cats (3-4, 0-1 SJBL) late in the second. With just 1:46 left until halftime, IHS senior Avaleena Nanaeto hit two of three free throws to re-tie the game at 27-27. DCHS junior Lexi Gray responded by converting an and-one opportunity with 1:26 remaining, giving the guests a 30-27 lead. That’s when things got, well, weird.
An Ignacio substitution slow in developing left the Lady ’Cats briefly with six players on the floor, and right in view of an official, who immediately whistled a technical foul. With 1:13 to go, Gray made both free throws, then crashed inside for a two-point bucket after the ensuing inbounds pass.
Junior Trista Barnett would then score from close range on the visitors’ next possession, and despite Nanaeto (nine second-quarter points, 13 total) interrupting the game-altering run with a hoop, the Lady ’Dogs (8-1, 1-0) trotted back to their locker room up 38-29 after another Gray basket.
Almost unstoppable near the rim, she would finish with 15 second-quarter points en route to a game-high 25. Barnett and sophomore Kylie Gatlin each booked a strong 17, but fellow starters Rylee Hickman and Tara Buffington were held to six points combined before Hickman fouled out with 2:21 left in regulation.
Ignacio junior Harmony Reynolds, whose three-point play late in the first quarter tied the game at 13-13 through the opening eight minutes, finished with nine points as did sophomore Darlyn Mendoza-Lechuga. Giving a starting-lineup nod with both freshman Marissa Olguin and sophomore Solymar Cosio both out, senior Elisia Cruz netted four points.
JV call-up Bella LeMasters made her varsity debut, making a short cameo as a post against post-blessed DCHS – which struggled against the Lady Bobcats’ full-court pressure, but regularly managed to baseball-pass the rock out of a predicament.
IHS finished 15-of-27 from the free-throw line; Dove Creek went 13-of-21.
Looking ahead at the schedule, Ignacio is shown as traveling Sat., Jan. 15, to Ridgway. Results from the Lady Bobcats’ 1/11 home game versus Mancos were unavailable at press time. The Lady Jays (4-3, 0-0 SJBL at the time) were to have a slightly different look than when they pulled off last season’s 38-32 upset inside IHS Gymnasium; post force Madi Hale graduated in the off-season and sophomore post Teya Yeomans is reportedly playing club volleyball this winter, but MHS will have the services of senior transfer Justina Bayles, formerly of 3A Montezuma-Cortez.
“Us making big shots and them not having any really … motivated us to keep digging deep and keep pushing. Because 32 minutes of basketball, it’s tough,” now-senior guard Rhiley Montoya had said after last season’s nail-biter. “I’ve played Ignacio since … middle school, and they’ve always been the toughest team in the league; they’re always the team to beat.”
Dove Creek further improved to 9-1 overall on Sat., Jan. 8, by traveling to, and destroying 2A Telluride by a 70-0 margin. Nine different Lady Bulldogs scored in the shutout, led by Barnett (19 points) and Gatlin (10).