Lady ’Cats the undisputed D-3 titlists!

Ignacio girls' head coach Justa Whitt roars along with her Lady Bobcats
Ignacio girls' head coach Justa Whitt roars along with her Lady Bobcats while hoisting high the 2A-District 3 Tournament championship plaque, gained Mar. 2 via a 53-33 trouncing of Telluride in Montezuma-Cortez's Ron Wright Memorial Gymnasium.
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Prior to the celebration came a long-awaited ‘stall-a-bration.’

It drove the Telluride faithful in attendance batty—maybe that was part of the plan—but Ignacio’s Lady Bobcats had indeed earned a few moments (or, as it appeared on-court, minutes) of ‘down time.’

They just didn’t expect the Lady Miners to apparently agree.

After crossing the midcourt line into the offensive end of Montezuma-Cortez’s Ron Wright Memorial Gymnasium, and meeting no resistance from THS, head coach Justa Whitt’s order was simple:

STOP.  Let them come to you.

For a sizable chunk of clock—preceding a blowout’s usual time-wasting end—no one did, and Ignacio’s ballhandlers stood happily motionless out near the volleyball layout’s attack line, rarely having to pass (let alone dribble) while eyeballing a 20-point advantage on the scoreboard.

“It feels good because we’ve worked up, and we’re the team now on top,” senior forward Mariah Vigil said of the action-less circumstance, and ultimately a 53-33 win in the 2A-District 3 Tournament’s championship clash Saturday, March 2.  “And it feels great.”

“We just wanted to get this win for our team—especially for the seniors,” said sophomore guard Sky Cotton.  “And we came out, started shooting…we got hot and kept it going!”

Later dogpiled upon joyously by senior forward/sister Pam, the younger Cotton teamed with junior guard Cloe Seibel to virtually bury the Lady Miners just after the opening tip—pitting the diminutive Sky Cotton’s hops against Telluride senior forward/center Morgan Mackie’s size.

THS junior Sierra Sandoval got the game underway with a free throw, but a Cotton trey not long after put the Lady ’Cats up 9-1.  She then followed with a breakaway layup off an outlet pass from senior Michelle Simmons (five points; 5-6 FT), and Ignacio was off and running.

Seibel closed out the quarter with a steal and buzzer-beating layup, after draining back-to-back triples inside the last two minutes, swelling the lead to 19-5 through eight minutes.  She added two more baskets in the second quarter as IHS held a massive 29-5 advantage at halftime.

“Oh my gosh that set us on fire for sure!” exclaimed Whitt.  “Cloe’s effort today was through the roof!  Through the roof in all departments.  And I can’t say enough…everybody’s effort today was there—you can look at the stats, look at all those marks, you know?  That’s what it takes to win, a team effort.”

Still riding high emotionally from a 55-48 upset at home of Class 1A’s then-#1 Norwood [Feb. 23], eight Lady ’Cats contributed points against THS, an afternoon after downing Ridgway 56-46 in the D-3 semifinals.  And had Lady Miner senior guard Shelby Brier not found a second-half scoring touch—netting all her 16 points in the third and fourth quarters—Telluride would not have made the final margin even close to respectable.

Sandoval finished with seven points, Sarah Wontrobski and Carson Brumley each chipped in four and Mackie was held to just two.  Meanwhile Sky Cotton finished with 13 for Ignacio, Vigil netted six, junior Gabriela Garcia four, Pam Cotton three, and Ellie Seibel and Jordan Cuthair two each.

“We’d played them before…thought they’d come out with more than they did,” said Vigil.  “We just wanted it…more, and we knew it.  So we ran off of our heart.”

“Before the game we talked about not worrying about the championship, and just coming out and playing our game,” Whitt said.  “That’s exactly what they did—they took hold of the game just like we’d talked about, and they never let up.”

“I am one extremely proud coach!  For the way my girls played.”

Now 14-7 overall, and averaging 54.3 points during a current nine-game winning streak, the Lady ’Cats will next face Sanford (12-11) in today’s Region III semis, 4:00 p.m. at Durango H.S.  SHS finished fifth in District 1, and the winner will meet either Paonia (17-4 coming in) or Del Norte (14-8) tomorrow.

“I can’t take full credit; it all started with Coach [Brice] Searles and his development of them as players,” said Whitt, “and their willingness to work in the summertime on their own.  And it’s all finally coming together at the right time—a number of years, playing together, and we’re jelling at the right time.”

THS landed in Region I and will first face Colorado Springs Evangelical Christian Academy, D-8 runners-up, at Adams State University in Alamosa.  Third-place Dolores—victims of Telluride on D-3’s Day 1—fell into Region V and will begin up at Grand Junction Central H.S. against D-5 champs Meeker.


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