Wed Feb 20th, 2013
Special to the Drum
There was indeed a storm brewing — not the outdoorsy, overhead kind, but something usually reserved in basketball circles for much rarer circumstances.
And when the fourth quarter expired on Saturday, Feb. 16, the lone levee of a rail dividing the Telluride MinerDome’s bleachers from its court couldn’t hold back the flood of fans. Against the Bobcats, THS had done what no San Juan Basin League team was expected to do this season.
And what it hadn’t done since now-Fort Lewis College guard Mike Matthews was in uniform.
“It is what it is,” IHS head coach Chris Valdez said of the 60-50 loss. “That Telluride team played their hearts out, had the opportunity to get up because they’re playing against the top-rated team. So they came to play, and we left some of our game at home.”
Some of it wore a protective boot on the bench — a fact Telluride noticed and capitalized upon.
“Without Adison … it’s a different … complexion of the game, with what he can do,” said Miner boss Mike Hughes of Ignacio forward Adison Jones, who sat out with a high right ankle sprain. “And I know they had a tough game Tuesday, on top of that, with Monticello.
“We’re just fortunate. Playing at home helped, in front of a crowd that gave us some support and juice,” he continued. “And I’m happy that our kids were able to step up.”
None more so than a pair of players virtually unknown to the Cats in past engagements: point guard Simone Lixi, a senior exchange student from Italy, and sophomore forward John Broadhead, who admittedly had zero thoughts of netting 14 points or serving as Telluride’s emotional leader against the Bobcats after entering as a reserve.
“I just really … came out there and tried to do all I could to help the team,” he said of his role in defeating Ignacio, which went into the game ranked fifth in the Denver Post coaches’ poll and seventh in the Colorado Preps poll. “I was so pumped. First time we’ve beaten these guys in … years. So excited. I can’t even speak right now because I’m so pumped.”
After scoring inside with 6:47 left in the second, putting the Miners ahead 13-12 — Ignacio would not lead again — his volleyball-esque spike of a Bo Ward baseline jumper with 2:22 left pumped up the homers beyond deflation.
“John played great,” Hughes said of the surprise performance. “Broadhead played fantastic basketball tonight. He just gets off the floor really well.”
Lixi, who booked a team-high 16 points, provided Telluride’s other defensive spark midway through the fourth quarter. Ignacio’s Clayton Jefferson, in the midst of a second-half scoring spree himself, looked to dribble behind his back and head to the hole once more. Looking unimpressed, Lixi poked the ball free and then drove the opposite way for a layup and an unimaginable 50-38 lead.
“If one player’s doing good, the team’s going to do good,” Broadhead said. “We feed off each other and work as a team. So as long as there’s teamwork and we’re always encouraging each other, it’s going to end up as a good game.”
On the other side of the coin, Ignacio’s mistakes often bred more mistakes, making routine shots suddenly difficult. The Miners, meanwhile, seemed to hit about everything from 12 feet or closer.
“We missed four, five easy layups in our high-low set,” Valdez said. “We turned the ball over, especially from inside-out. … Unchallenged turnovers probably five or six times.
“We worked hard on being able to control different matchups, and they kind of struggled shooting the ball. I don’t think they made a three in the first half … don’t know if I’ve ever coached a game against Ignacio where that’s happened. And I knew we were kind of staving off some things,” Hughes said. “Then Jefferson got hot, did some really good things for them.”
Jefferson finished with a game-high 22 points, with 10 of his 18 second-half points coming in the Bobcats’ desperate fourth-quarter comeback, which brought them back to 57-50 before Connor Courter hit two free throws with 0:15 left and Lixi added one with 0:02.
“They’ve been the guys at the top of the mountain for a long time in our league,” Hughes said, “and we’ve been working … trying to get to where we thought we could really compete and challenge. I’m really, really pleased with our kids.”
Courter dropped 11 points for THS, Tristan Purdy had seven and Brooks Rogers six (all in the fourth). Kelton Richmond totaled 11 (six in the fourth) for IHS, Carver had 10 and Wyatt Hayes seven.
“They’ve got a real energetic team,” Valdez said. “We never had that sense of urgency on us. So we’ve got to work on that, and make sure we start treating every game like a championship game. Or you don’t get anywhere from here.”