In its first 3A Intermountain League game of the season, the Bayfield High School boys basketball team looked in deep trouble as it was down nine points against undefeated Montezuma-Cortez, the Colorado High School Activities Association’s No. 9 team in Class 3A, with 6:11 left on Saturday evening at BHS. The Wolverines had just given up an easy layup inside the post to Cortez’s Cordell Baer after their previous offensive possession resulted in an offensive foul and was waived off because of a charge.
Frustrated, BHS head coach Klint Chandler called timeout to calm his team down. It worked.
Bayfield went on a 9-0 run to tie the game at 41, and senior shooting guard sank the game-winning free throws with just 3.4 seconds remaining in a 50-48 win over the previously undefeated Panthers.
“It was big for us,” Chandler said. “We never gave up, and I told them during that timeout that we would get the stops we needed, and our conditioning would come through, and it did. I really thought the conditioning won us the game tonight.”
The Panthers turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions, and in an instant, Bayfield (6-4, 1-0 3A Intermountain League) was back in the game. During the 9-0 run, Kennedy had five of BHS’ points, and stole an inbounds pass and scored a layup to get the game within two, with 4:07 remaining.
“I was trying to call a timeout after the second turnover when (Keyon) Prior scored,” said Montezuma-Cortez head coach Michael Hall. “I wanted them to quickly dribble it to our bench and call a timeout so we could regroup. But as soon as we attempted that pass, they stole it from us again right underneath our basket and scored an easy layup.”
Hayden Farmer tied the game at 41, and while the Panthers (9-1, 1-1 IML) briefly retook the lead, BHS guard James Mottin responded in a big way with a 3-pointer from the corner, which sent the BHS gym into a frenzy. Bayfield led 44-42 with 2:49 remaining, but that would not be all.
The teams exchanged baskets back and forth, and MCHS point guard Michael Diaz tied the game at 48. BHS used a timeout to draw up a play.
On the ensuing possession, Kennedy drove to the tin and got fouled, but would miss the 1-and-1. At the other end, Cortez had a great look, but it bounced off the rim with under 10 seconds remaining, and Kennedy corralled the rebound, looked up court to pass, but was fouled on a reach-in foul with 3.4 seconds left.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” Kennedy said. “The free-throws were what made me nervous, like I was shaking during them.”
Neither Farmer nor Chandler were nervous.
“Before he shot those free throws, I told him ‘Hey, this is nothing, just knock ‘em down,” Farmer said.
“I didn’t even mention a what-if-he-misses scenario during that final timeout, because Turner is clutch,” Chandler said. “I talked about our defense because I knew he would make the free-throws, and he did.”
Kennedy made both, and BHS led 50-48. A final timeout was called by Hall to call a final play.
Keagan Whiteskunk caught the ball at the Cortez free-throw line, took three dribbles, and then uncharacteristically hesitated. He shot it, and it went in, but the buzzer had already sounded.
“We worked that play and executed it to perfection,” Hall said. “Everything was designed, and it worked just like we wanted it to. I think, he got down there, may have lost track of time and got a great look-off, but it was just a split second too late.”
After the buzzer sounded, Cortez players dropped to their knees in shock, while Whiteskunk recognized the dream of still being undefeated was just out of reach.
Bayfield had never led until Motten nailed the 3-pointer, as they had been down by as many as eight in the first half, and the Wolverines went down in the locker room with a 27-19 deficit. In a packed gym with two local teams, both sets of fans were constantly on their feet, both cheering their team while jeering the referees, who called 26 fouls in the game, including the one with 3.4 remaining on the clock.
Chandler said the environment helped lift his team.
“You always try to protect your home court,” Chandler said. “But tonight, given the large turnout of Cortez fans, their play and their fans made it tough. It was a true test for us, and I told them that that’s the way it’s going to be in this league from top to bottom. We can’t be giving anything up on the home court.”
Hall said he loved his team’s efforts, but the turnovers down the stretch were the difference.
“Those turnovers proved costly,” Hall said. “This one is going to be tough to swallow, but it’s a good learning experience for them. It was a great atmosphere, but we’re disappointed we lost our undefeated record against a very seasoned team, and I’m still excited to see what we can do with the remainder of our schedule.”
Bayfield will host Centauri at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18 at BHS.