20-20: IHS’ focus unified entering New Year

Ignacio’s Ocean Hunter (32) angles himself for an attempted scoop-shot around Cedaredge’s Conner Brooks (11) during road action Saturday, Dec. 21.
Flattened by Cedaredge’s Alex Barron, Ignacio’s Joe Garcia (10) none-the-less attempts to save a ball off the floor – regardless of their sideline proximity – during road action Saturday, Dec. 21.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Bobcats ruin Bruins, avenge last season’s loss


Dominant enough to render Cedaredge High’s public-address announcer silent after only two quarters, the Ignacio boys’ basketball bunch closed out an undefeated pre-holiday schedule stretch burying the 3A Bruins by no fewer than 38 points Saturday afternoon, Dec. 21.

Jokingly praised by head coach Chris Valdez after making not one, not two, but three double-bonus free throws late in the game, but then razzed by the skipper after subsequently missing not one, not two, but three back-end tries with senior reserve Johnathon Whitt waiting at the scorer’s table to check in for him. Junior forward Bryce Finn was ‘officially’ credited with a game-high 15 points in an apparent 61-23 win, but in fact netted 16 – making the final margin actually 62-23 – as one make seemingly slipped the scorer’s mind.

Not that the oversight had any real consequence; Valdez concentrated more upon the Bobcats’ outstanding group effort – which included winning the second quarter by a devastating 18-1 count – despite lacking both starting guard Triston Thompson and reserve forward Dylan Labarthe.

“If you’ve got kids out there stepping up for each other, playing for each other, you’re going to get the result we had,” Valdez stated. “What I like about it, is it’s next-guy-up: We had a couple guys gone, and the ‘next’ guys stepped up ready.”

It all began with guard Keegan Schurman. His captaincy temporarily stripped earlier in the week, the senior not only provided Thompson-like scoring, totaling 11 points and sinking three of IHS’ ten three-pointers, but also effectively helped junior Brady McCaw in directing offensive schemes and keeping CHS counterparts Alex Barron and Damon Hudson – who combined for just five points, all by Hudson – under wraps.

“I felt like I did a pretty good job,” said Schurman, whose first trey opened the first-quarter scoring, whose second began the second stanza, and whose third began the fourth – immediately after Bruin senior Owen Craig unceremoniously fouled out with 7:49 left. “Having Triston’s a big thing; he’s a main player … and I tried to fill in as best I could to help our team win.”

“Yeah, it’s fun to score, but we won at the end. That’s all that matters.”

“We had a big talk this week … and so he came out, I think, to prove to us that he can do something special,” said Valdez. “And I’m glad he did!”

Ignacio’s Bird Red, center, outhustles a Cedaredge player to a loose ball during road action Saturday, Dec. 21.

In Labarthe’s stead, senior forward Bird Red entered the game off the bench and contributed an important six points while assisting Finn and senior Ocean Hunter (11 points) with necessary rebounding.

“Getting rebounds like crazy,” said Schurman. “Ocean, he had key rebounds in the beginning, and Bryce … had a lot of rebounds. We were all just playing together and that’s how we won.”

Cedaredge junior Conner Brooks managed a team-best eight points in defeat, with seven coming during a third quarter in which the Delta County locals managed to stay within two points, 16-14, of a surprised Ignacio. But with McCaw (Nine points) draining the visitors’ final triple, IHS won the fourth by an asterisked 12-2 count.

Ranked No. 4 in the CHSAANow.com Class 2A Boys’ poll going in, the ’Cats (4-0, 1-0 2A/1A San Juan Basin) had led 15-6 after one quarter, 33-7 through two and coasted into the final eight regulation minutes ahead 49-21.

“You figure last year they lost two players – one their best player – and we … have the same exact team,” Valdez said. “And then them beating us by 12 (inside IHS Gymnasium), and we beat them by 35 or whatever – that’s a big difference, and it’s because we’re a lot more focused on ‘team’ this year than individuals.”

“That’s exactly what you have to do to win.”

Trounced 71-26 the night before by La Jara Centauri, No. 9 in the 3A rankings, the Bruins fell to 2-4 overall.

Ignacio will next see action resuming SJBL work Tuesday night, Jan. 7, 2020, at Dove Creek. Ending the Old Year hosting their own Bulldog Classic on Dec. 20-21, DCHS managed to stun 1A Montezuma Creek, Utah, Whitehorse 51-50 on Day 1, but then dropped to 2-5 overall (0-1 SJBL) via a 58-43 loss to 2A Monticello, Utah, in the next evening’s finale.

“We’re taking it one game at a time … but we definitely are going for it all,” stated Schurman. “We’re playing as a family now; it’s all together and that’s how we’re winning. We’re just together as a family.”

“We’re a … really, really good team, and if you add a couple more we’re super-great,” Valdez said. “There’s a lot of unselfishness out there, and we’ve still got a lot to work on as a team, but I think we’re stepping in the right direction.”

Ignacio’s Keegan Schurman (2) looks to use a Brady McCaw (1) screen to lose a Cedaredge defender during road action Saturday, Dec. 21.

Hosted by Montezuma-Cortez, the Jan. 10-11 Four Corners Southwest Classic then follows on the schedule for the ’Cats, slated to battle 3A Bayfield on Day 1 at 5 p.m., then the tourney-hosting 3A Panthers at 3 p.m. on Day 2.

M-CHS will conclude Day 1 varsity play with a 7 p.m. rumble versus 4A Durango, while DHS will then commence Day 2 action with a 1 p.m. test against BHS.

Inside M-CHS’ auxiliary gym, junior-varsity play will pit Montezuma-Cortez against Durango at 5 p.m. on Day 1, followed by Bayfield-Ignacio at 7 p.m. The Saturday session will then pit M-CHS against IHS at 1 p.m., with Durango-Bayfield to follow at 3 p.m.

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