Postseason victories aren’t always pretty however, and for the Bluejays, advancing one step closer to the Class 2A State Tournament was the most important thing to coaches, players, and scores of fans who packed the Mancos Performance Center on what was an exciting night.
“(Our team) was pretty sloppy, to be honest with you,” Mancos head coach Elijah Knepper explained. “I would like to see us clean some things up. You know, though, a win is a win this late in the season, so we’ll take it however we can get it.”
Among the clear keys to the Bluejays’ victory was the team’s ability to implement a suffocating 1-3-1 zone defense, which kept Center players off balance throughout the evening and limited the Vikings to 29 points.
Senior Vassar Stephens and junior Caden Showalter did an admirable job of utilizing their length to close passing lanes and Christian Cova’s ability to run the baseline and close out corner jump shooters proved vital in the Bluejays victory.
Also proving key for Mancos was the ability of Caden Showalter and freshman Connor Showalter to attack the basket and control the offensive glass as Caden Showalter muscled his way to a game-high 14 points and Connor Showalter scored 12.
After a back and forth first quarter ended with Mancos leading 11-9, the Bluejays began attacking Center’s 2-3 zone defense and closed the second quarter on an 11-0 run, which allowed them to carry a 30-16 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Bluejays extended their lead to 38-22 by the end of a fourth quarter that included 4 points for freshman Chase Moore, whose energy and ability to attack the basket proved key for the Bluejays throughout the second half.
“When you’re going against a zone, it comes down to whether you can hit some shots,” Knepper said. “Tonight, we didn’t really (hit shots), but we were able to get inside enough and rumble enough that it worked out for us.”
With the victory, Mancos improved its overall record to 16-6 on the season and secured a berth in the Class 2A Region 6 championship game, which will take place at 11 a.m. on March 2 in Mancos.
Standing across the court for the Bluejays will be players from Heritage Christian High School, which defeated Akron High School, 57-54, in a thriller that began immediately following Mancos’ win over Center.
In the event that Mancos defeats Heritage Christian, it will qualify for the eight-team Class 2A State Tournament.