In a conference battle of two physical teams, there has to be an x-factor.
It was at the free-throw line.
A closely contested girls basketball game between Dolores and Ignacio on Tuesday night came down to the charity stripe.
The visiting Lady Bobcats made their free throws. The Lady Bears did not.
Dolores fell at home, 55-48.
"It was a tough game. That's a good team," first-year coach Tim Kercher said. "It was a pretty physical game. The refs were allowing a lot to happen. Our girls hung tight. But in the end, they won the battle of the boards in the second half. Especially, off the free throws."
It was a defensive struggle, as both teams couldn't find a consistent offensive rhythm. But in the fourth quarter, Ignacio (4-2, 1-0 2A San Juan Basin League) made its free throws and converted second chance points to thwart a comeback by Dolores (5-3, 2-2 2A SJBL). The Lady Bears have lost two straight after winning five in a row.
"My girls, I'm proud of them. They played their hearts out," Kercher said. "It's always hard coming back after the (Christmas) break. I think this game will help us get conditioned. We'll be ready."
Dolores took control early with an 11-3 lead and appeared to be on the way to a blowout win.
However, the Lady Bobcats slowed the tempo and crept back in the game behind Mariah Vigil and Michelle Simmons.
The Lady Bears led 18-14 after the first quarter before the teams battled back-and-forth in the second frame.
Sharpshooting ace Lexi Atkinson got on the board in the second with her first trey to give Dolores a 21-16 lead. The only problem, Atkinson was the only one scoring in the second.
Ignacio grabbed its first lead at 25-23 before Atkinson hit her second from downtown to put the Lady Bears back up 26-25.
Down 29-27, Cydney McHenry inbounded the ball to Atkinson and the senior delivered from 25-feet at the buzzer. Dolores led 30-29 at halftime.
Senior center Sam Tate scored the first three points of the third quarter for the Lady Bears. But Dolores couldn't pull away and led just 33-31.
Sky Cotton tied the game at 33 with a driving layup for the Lady Bobcats.
Consecutive free throws by McHenry and Atkinson put Dolores ahead 35-33. But Ignacio closed the quarter with six straight to lead 39-35 after three.
In the fourth, the Lady Bobcats built an 8-point advantage. Dolores climbed within three on separate occasions, but could get no closer due to clutch free-throw shooting by Ignacio.
The Lady Bobcats kept the Lady Bears at bay and went onto win by seven.
Atkinson scored a game high 15 points, while Tate and Brianna Schwartz tallied 13 and 10.
"I feel like we started out strong," said Tate, who transferred from 5A Fountain-Fort Carson. "I think if we start out like that every game, we'll continue to play well as a whole. Also, I need to be more big on the inside and get more rebounds. I'll do it next time."
Dolores plays at Ridgway on Friday at 5:30 p.m., before returning home to face Nucla on Saturday at 4.