Just when they needed a proverbial ‘shot in the arm,’ the Ignacio boys collectively got three – more than lethal enough an injection of enthusiasm to put down visiting Mancos, and still strong enough to then last into the next evening and fuel a crucial fast start into a battle with Telluride.
The end result? Not the prettiest brand of Bobcat Basketball yet seen, but enough to secure what will end up being a key 2A/1A San Juan Basin League sweep – 71 to 50 over MHS, and 56-32 over THS.
“If we were playing our best basketball now, I’d be worried. And we aren’t; we aren’t anywhere close to our best … which is awesome because we want to peak in a month or two!” IHS head coach Chris Valdez said.
“So I’m really excited about … the potential we have for the rest of the season. I would assess us as right where we need to be.”
Impressed by his own team’s work inside SunUte Community Center, new Telluride boss Stefan Reiter – the replacement for Valdez-like vocalist Mike Hughes (now athletic/activity director at 4A Aurora Vista PEAK Prep) – was in near agreement about the Miners’ prospects after having been close to the Cats at halftime, 22-16.
“Like I told ’em, good teams lose games,” he said. “And they’re a good team, they really are. Didn’t really show it the whole entire game tonight, but you could see the spurts of life where if we play like that the entire game, then that’s an entirely different outcome – it’s a close game, it’s a good game.”
But the Miners, like the Blue Jays, found themselves facing a rugged uphill climb almost immediately; behind senior forward Adison Jones [20 points versus MHS, 22 vs. THS], Ignacio raced out to 6-0 leads in each contest and led 16-5 after a quarter in the Jan. 16th test, and 10-2 after one in the test on the 17th.
“It’s just that first half,” quipped Mancos senior guard Jayden Peacock, whose bunch would trail 34-18 at intermission despite senior guard Nigel Henry knocking down two three-pointers – like Telluride senior guard Wilder Hanley would also manage – and generating momentum that would eventually bring MHS back to as close as 46-35 after beginning the third quarter on a 10-2 dash.
“At the beginning [Valdez] said they were one of the toughest teams in our league,” said IHS senior guard Xavier Reynolds, “and tonight they proved it with that run. But we kept our composure and just held them off.”
But not until IHS junior guard Wyatt Hayes’ trey ending the third were Rodney Cox’s Jays truly in trouble.
“Wyatt came off the floor and said, ‘Hey! We can’t let them talk to us like that! We’ve got to get it going!’” Valdez recalled. “And when he says something, his team responds. He and Adi are ‘the guys;’ if they say something, everybody kind of listens!”
The triple, rebuilding the Bobcats’ lead to 51-37, rapidly led to Reynolds’ beginning the fourth, and then immediately to junior Tucker Ward’s from the same spot – the corner, in front of a boisterous Ignacio bench.
And after a Mancos turnover at the other end, junior Austin McCaw then an underhand toss in transition from Ward and coolly finished a two-on-one break with a layup for a 59-37 advantage, soon overwhelming at 63-37 before MHS (5-4, 1-1 SJBL) made the final margin more respectable with six late points from junior Ro Paschal.
“Xavier came out a little shaky,” Valdez said. “Coaches got on him and even the players were like, ‘Hey!’ And he went out and hit a three, hit the little floater, and that’s what he’s capable of – he’s capable of eight or ten off the bench in less than a quarter and a half!”
“I felt pretty good after it went in,” Reynolds said of his three-ball, leading to a five-point night. “I had a lot of confidence, so whenever I got the opportunity to shoot I just shot with confidence, thinking it was going in.”
“I was just trying to not miss the easy layup and just help our team,” said McCaw, who netted nine points as a reserve. “Not turn the ball over, make good passes – just help out in any way.”
“He just plays his role; he’s not here to be an all-star,” Valdez stated. “He wants to help this team, whatever that takes! I think Austin was really the deciding factor why we didn’t fall apart.”
Hayes totaled 12 points in the victory, Ward and junior guard Anthony Manzanares each had ten, and junior center/forward Nick Herrera booked five before fouling out with 1:42 left in the game. Seven-of-eight from the foul line [Mancos was 22-of-30, compared to Ignacio’s 9-of-13], Paschal posted 15 points for MHS and Henry finished with 12. Peacock and juniors Adrian Hernandez and Andrew Plunkett each chipped in five.
Herrera managed ten points against Telluride, helping the Cats reinforce their six-point halftime lead to a stronger 13 (38-25) through three quarters, before Jones netted his last nine points in the fourth to lock up the win. Hayes scored eight, but Manzanares and Ward were held to just three apiece, Reynolds four and McCaw two.
Hanley totaled ten points for the Miners (4-3, 3-2), junior Miles Galbo came off Reiter’s bench to net nine and sophomore reserve Jackson Pettinos had four. Starters Zak Hild, John Broadhead, Gage Livermore and Amos Hodges, a junior-senior-senior-junior set, were held to a combined seven points.
“We had five minutes of horrible defensive basketball,” Valdez said. “We held them to two points for thirteen minutes in the first half, and then they scored 14 points in three minutes! Then in the second half we had a two-minute run where they get eight points – so 22 points off of those two!”
We were just being patient at that time, Reiter said.
“But then we had lapses, you know, where that’s not the case and then the deficit gets expanded. Ignacio’s a great team; they have great players, they’re well-coached.”
Ignacio responded fine, Valdez said.
“But that’s something we cannot afford; we can’t have two- or three-minute letdowns throughout games because it will cost us games.”
McCaw agreed. “We just want to keep our pace.”
Ranked fifth in the CHSAANow.com Class 2A poll prior to the two-game home stand, and an improved 8-2 overall (4-0 SJBL) after it, the Bobcats were next slated to face Dove Creek away Jan. 23 and travel to Dolores on the 30th, before beginning their vital February stretch on the 3rd inside Mancos’ Performance Center.