Somewhat shielded from the officials’ ears by a tightly-circled huddle, Dolores senior point guard Cody Carroll’s expletive-emphatic [his preaching rhymed with ‘PULPIT!’] opinion of the first half’s bizarre ending couldn’t have played any better into the Bobcats’ favor.
Which had just become even more fortunate when Kelton Richmond was fouled heaving a Hail-Mary prayer from well behind the midcourt line as the second quarter expired.
The Bears got a break when the stripes ruled Richmond took Chaz Thompson’s contact before his attempt, giving the junior forward two double-bonus free throws rather than three for the try itself, but when both were converted DHS still found themselves down 40-28 with just sixteen regulation minutes remaining in the 2A-District 3 Tournament finale on March 2.
“They were pretty angry,” said Ignacio forward Austin Haire, “after a while—the refs, and us getting in their ears…. It just…didn’t turn out well for them.”
With 6’5” low-post beast Tyler Weir already slowed by three first-half fouls, Dolores shooting guard Austin Blackmer picked up his fourth with 6:11 left in the third, while IHS junior Clayton Jefferson canned a three-pointer on the play. Bobcat freshman reserve guard Anthony Manzanares then immediately followed with a trey of his own, forcing DHS boss Larry Schwartz into a needed timeout down 46-30.
With a somewhat-composed Carroll managing eight points in the frame, Dolores managed to then outscore Ignacio 13-10 before the third ended, but were simply too far behind as the ’Cats captured a sixth straight district-level title, 68-51 inside Montezuma-Cortez’s Ron Wright Memorial Gymnasium.
“This is a pretty big moment, winning six in a row,” sophomore forward Adison Jones said. “We’re hoping we can go all the way to State this year.”
Jones’ first six points ended up proving the most crucial towards the program’s six-pack of plaques; Blackmer had begun the contest with a triple, and the Bears still led 7-4 when Jones (15 points; 7-8 FT) tied by sinking his second three-ball in as many chances.
“I just didn’t want them to get momentum…just wanted to kill ’em right there,” he said.
Richmond (17 pts; 7-10 FT) then followed with two go-ahead freebies, and freshman guard Wyatt Hayes (13 pts) threatened to bury the Bears early with three successful charity chucks and 2:24 left, then a steal and breakaway layup with 1:51 left, increasing IHS’ lead to 18-8.
Jones rattled in a free throw to start the second quarter, and Weir rattled in a short jumper to bring Dolores back to 21-16, the closest they’d approach as events panned out. Dropping in the last two of 20 FT’s attempted by the ’Cats (who finished 23-of-31, besting DHS’ 16-of-25) in the frame, Jones rebuilt Ignacio’s advantage to 38-28 with 0:12 left—just prior to Richmond’s makes with no time remaining.
“We just wanted to get the big guy out because we knew that’s who their bread-and-butter was. Then we went after their shooter [Blackmer],” Jones said, “and after that…it was [making] free throws.”
“Yeah it got a little rough,” concurred Haire, “but we pulled through, did pretty good in the end!”
The Bobcats led 56-43 entering the fourth and soon went ahead by twenty on a Richmond hoop in transition, all but making a DHS comeback impossible given the Bears’ foul situation. And when Ridgway Athletic Director Chuck Siefken presented the top prize, Ignacio’s lone senior stepped to accept.
“It feels great,” Haire said, after re-emerging from the locker room still clutching the award. “Just to be out here with my teammates, and work hard and get this sixth in a row! Feels great!”
Weir finished with a hard-fought 16 points and Carroll 14 for DHS in defeat, while Blackmer and reserve guard Hayden Plewe each scored seven. Jackson Vermeule chipped in five and Mikeal Ford two.
Jefferson and forward/center Justin Carver each scored seven for IHS, and Haire and Bo Ward each scored two as the ’Cats again reached the Region III Tournament, again to be held at Durango H.S.
Now 18-5 overall, including a 49-33 ‘revenge’ win over Telluride in the D-3 semifinals, Ignacio will first play Paonia (10-12), the fourth-place team out of D-5, tonight at 5:30. The winner will face either Sargent (12-10 coming in) or Lutheran (16-5) tomorrow to reach the 2012-13 season’s closing weekend.
“We’re excited to get there,” said Haire. “I’m sure we’ll do our best.”
SURVIVING THE FALLOUT: D-3 third-placers—via a wild 55-51 overtime win against Ridgway—Telluride landed in Region I and will open against D-1 champs Sanford at Adams State University in Alamosa. Not out of the mix, Dolores will travel to Grand Junction Central H.S. for Region V, and initially challenge D-2 third-placers Yuma.