It's been almost four years since the Ignacio Bobcats lost a San Juan Basin League game.
Ignacio has been and still is the class of the SJBL.
But Dolores closed the gap Tuesday night.
The visiting Bobcats jumped out to 11-3 lead early, as expected.
However, perhaps unexpectedly, Dolores fought back.
Behind Cody Carroll, Tyler Weir and Austin Blackmer, the Bears closed the first quarter on a 11-2 run to lead 14-13 after one.
The Bears sent a message early that it was going to be a fight.
In the end, Ignacio, being the championship team it is, took punches and countered when it needed to. The Bobcats went onto to win 69-55.
"This is the year we stepped up. We held them. We're improving every year," said Bears sophomore guard, Hayden Plewe. "If we keep hustling our butts off, we can win this year."
Dolores made a statement that it is no longer a pushover and that it's a contender.
"Five or six years ago, it was 80 points," said Bears coach Larry Schwartz about the margin Dolores had lost to Ignacio by in the past. "I think we closed the gap. The kids are starting to believe that they can hang with good teams and start to beat them. That showed tonight."
Ignacio (5-1, 1-0 2A SJBL) showed why its a top-10 team in the state. Whenever Dolores (3-5, 2-2 2A SJBL) made a run, sharpshooters Clayton Jefferson and Kelton Richmond answered. The duo scored 17 points apiece.
"They're really well coached, they hit really timely shots," Schwartz said. "Every time we closed the gap, they hit a big 3 or they got the ball inside and made a big play."
Carroll led all scorers with 20 points, including three 3-pointers. But Schwartz got key contributions from some of the younger players to spark the seniors.
Despite the loss, it was a team effort and the Bears are feeling confident heading into the heart of league play.
"I'm just really proud of the fight and the grit they have," Schwartz said. "The kids are buying into what we're telling them."
Dolores opened a 19-16 lead early in the second quarter after a Jackson Vermeule layup.
But back came the Bobcats.
Ignacio showed off its explosive offense with a 17-1 run to take a 33-20 lead. The Bears battled even into the break and trailed 39-26 at halftime.
Dolores was not able to cut its deficit to within single digits. The Bears did nearly play even with Ignacio in the second half, only losing the last two quarters by a total of one point (30-29).
Weir scored 12 hard earned points for Dolores, while Blackmer poured in 10. Vermeule and Plewe scored five points apiece.
"We played as a team for once," Vermeule said. "We were just one big working unit. We felt like we could beat Ignacio."
The Bears have a quick turnaround with two games Friday and Saturday. Dolores is at Ridgway at 7 p.m. and returns home to host Nucla at 5:30 on Saturday.