Playing against Mancos High School on Feb. 5 in front of a capacity crowd, Dolores High School seniors Tatum Majors and Morgaine Milligan were not about to let the opportunity for a victory slip away.
Time and time again, the stalwart tandem pushed their way into the paint against overmatched Mancos defenders and scored. At times, it seemed as if the Lady Jays had no answer for the Lady Bears’ power, and although Mancos put up a valiant fight, Dolores came away with a 35-33 victory.
“It was a really big deal for us to win this game,” Milligan said shortly after the final buzzer sounded. “(Mancos) has always been our rivals, and they bused over kids. We tried to pack the stands. They got in our heads, but we were able to power through that and win this game for the seniors and our parents.”
While Majors’ final tally of 15 points and Milligan’s final tally of 14 points told the story of Dolores’ dominance in the paint, the game’s outcome was in doubt thanks to scrappy play by several Mancos players.
Among those players was sophomore Maddie Hale, who consistently attacked the basket and scored a team-high 9 points. Isis Jaime and Erika Peacock also had solid games for the Lady Jays as the duo scored eight points and seven points, respectively.
After a first half that was defined by Dolores’ dominance on the offensive glass ended with the Lady Bears leading 17-12, Mancos fought back and built a 28-27 lead by the end of the third quarter, thanks in large part to two three-pointers by Jaime.
Tough defense by both teams limited scoring over the final five minutes, which began with the score tied, 33-33.
With the clock winding down, Dolores sophomore Sydney Smith leaped into a passing lane and came up with a steal before driving the length of the court and finishing with 1:26 left to put her team ahead 35-33.
“It was really stressful because it was do or die,” Smith said, when asked about the game’s key play. “If I didn’t steal it, they would have (won), so I just had to be quick. It was all instinct.”
Although Mancos had several opportunities to tie the game over the final minute, the Lady Jays were never able to free themselves for an open shot, and after Smith stole an inbounds pass with five seconds left and dribbled down the floor, time expired.
Exulted by their victory, Dolores players rushed onto the court and exchanged hugs while fans cheered their approval. Meanwhile, Mancos players hung their heads and lamented what might have been.
With its record now at 2-13 overall and 2-6 in the San Juan Basin League, Mancos will prepare for a road matchup against Nucla on Feb. 7 at 5:30 p.m.
The Lady Bears will put their 8-8 overall record and their 6-4 SJBL record on the line when they hit the road to face Telluride on Feb. 9. The game is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.
“Our goal is to be the best team we can be,” said Smith, when asked about the Lady Bears’ goals for the remainder of the season. “We need to keep our composure and keep going up from here.”