Bobcats stay undefeated at Cortez districts

Ignacio Bobcats
Clayton Jefferson (11)
Adison Jones (33)
Anthony Manzanares (10)
The Ignacio Bobcats bring it in around the 2A-District 3 Tournament's first-place plaque for the masses on Saturday, March 1, in Cortez after defeating the Telluride Miners 66-36 in the championship game. Up next, IHS will host Region III action March 7-8 in Durango at Fort Lewis College.
Ignacio's Clayton Jefferson (11) goes all out on this drive to the basket against Mancos during the 2A-District 3 Tournament semifinals in Cortez on Friday, Feb. 28. Ignacio downed the Blue Jays 55-29 to reach the next afternoon's championship game.
Ignacio's Adison Jones (33) takes the ball hard to the hoop despite a foul from behind courtesy Telluride's Max Bailis (15) during the 2A-District 3 Tournament's championship in Cortez on Saturday, March 1. Ignacio defeated the Miners 66-36 to earn the title.
Ignacio's Anthony Manzanares (10) and Telluride's Tristan Purdy (22) share a post-game word after the Bobcats defeated the Miners 66-36 in the 2A-District 3 Tournament's finale in Cortez on Saturday, March 1.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Since the heyday of his Mike Matthews-led teams not so long ago, Telluride High’s Mike Hughes had awaited a first half against San Juan Basin League barometer Ignacio like what he witnessed Saturday, March 1.

“When we came out of the locker room, first quarter,” said senior forward Brooks Rogers, “we were like, ‘Let’s do this!’ First quarter went well, second quarter started going well…”

Even when it appeared the Bobcats were about to pull away, the Miners calmly shot their way back into contending for the 2A-District 3 Tournament’s championship with consecutive three-balls by senior Tristan Purdy and junior Wilder Hanley, and re-took the lead at 18-17 on a Rogers breakaway layup.

But as he’d seen many times in more recent, tortured memory, the young men in white jerseys were unfazed, and a Clayton Jefferson free throw sparked a 17-3 run into halftime from which Telluride never recovered, ultimately losing 66-36 inside Montezuma-Cortez’s Ron Wright Memorial Gymnasium.

“It was basically the same script as down there,” said Hughes, referring to Telluride’s 66-45 regular season-ending loss Saturday, Feb. 22 inside IHS Gymnasium. “Last three minutes of the first half, they get a sizable lead. Then they hit the first shot of the second half … and we’re back to playing ‘chase.’”

Sophomore guard Wyatt Hayes began the third quarter with a trey, but the real psychological nails were driven home by junior forward Adison Jones. First came an in-your-face triple over springy John Broadhead late in Ignacio’s scoring sprint ending the second. Ignacio led 34-21 at intermission.

“Oh, it’s good,” Hayes said about his knack to pick up his team with a key basket. “You always have to have confidence, because if you don’t … you’re probably not going to make it. So I have confidence it’s going to go in. That’s how our whole team is.”

Jones’s second dagger in Telluride’s collective heart came when he brushed off a hard Max Bailis foul from behind to sink an “and-one” free throw, and then zipped a slick pass to senior Kelton Richmond (10 points) for a lay-in which increased the Bobcats’ lead to 46-28 entering the fourth frame.

“I just felt like we were in a slump for offense,” Jones said. “I just tried to get stuff going for the team … to create and get my teammates open. And stuff just opened up for me; I just took advantage.”

Jones finished with a team-high 14 points in the win – polished off by senior reserve guard Sam Corrado hitting two of three at the foul line after drawing Bailis’s fifth foul (Hanley had fouled out 5:20 earlier) with only 0:06 remaining.

“It was loud and crazy,” Hayes (10 points) said, “but a good environment to get us ready for later on in regionals. Any one of us can step up anytime. Adi stepped up today big. He had a big game.”

Jefferson finished with eight points, senior center Justin Carver six, and Corrado and Anthony Manzanares five points each as Ignacio improved to 21-0 overall with its seventh straight district-level title.

Rogers paced all players with his 16, but Purdy’s six was the closest to a balance Telluride would find. Senior shooting guard Conner Courter was limited to just two points, and Hanley managed but three.

“We lacked on our shooting for sure. … No one could really get it in the basket. That was definitely our problem,” Rogers said. “But we played hard and gave it our all, so hopefully we’ll come out firing next weekend at regionals.”

The previous evening, Richmond’s first eight points helped the Cats take a 17-9 lead through eight minutes against Mancos, and Ignacio never looked back in a 55-29 rout. Hayes led all players with 14 points, Richmond totaled 11, Jones had eight and Jefferson seven as 10 Bobcats scored at least one.

Junior guard Jayden Peacock and junior forward Daniel Christensen led the Blue Jays with seven points apiece, and sophomore guard Adrian Hernandez scored six on two high-arcing threes.

“This year we think we can beat everybody. That’s pretty much our mindset,” said Hayes, alluding to this weekend’s Region III Tournament at Fort Lewis College in Durango.

Ignacio will begin regional action against Del Norte (8-14), the fourth-place team in D-1, with the winner facing either D-1 runners-up Mosca Sangre de Cristo (14-8) or D-5 fourth-placers Rangely (15-7).

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