DOLORES – Playing at home against Ridgway, the Dolores High School boys basketball team locked down defensively and played with the type of tenacity required to win games in the San Juan Basin League.
Shooting difficulties doomed the Bears, however, as players knocked down just six of their 20 free throws and missed several uncontested jumpers and layups during a 45-38 loss on Jan. 14.
The loss dropped Dolores’ record to 3-6 overall and 0-2 in the San Juan Basin League, and after the game, first-year head coach Justin Schmitt praised his team’s defense and lamented his team’s shooting woes.
“Our team played great defense 98% of the game,” Schmitt said. “There were a couple of times where we had assignment breakdowns and (Ridgway) went on a few little runs. Normally, that is something that we would overcome, but today, we had a hard time putting the ball in the basket. When you’re struggling to get the ball in the hoop that much, you don’t have a very big margin for error on the defensive side.”
Among the most effective performers for the Bears was sophomore Keagan Ertel-Moralez, who penetrated the lane on several occasions and drilled some tough jump shots en route to a team-high nine points.
Also putting forth a solid offensive performance was Trey Seekins, who used his superior size and quickness to pull down several boards on both the offensive and defensive ends. The senior forward also chipped in five points on the evening.
“I felt like we played really good defense and we got lots of rebounds,” Seekins said. “If you get a good box-out, you get a good board. I just try to box out, that’s all it takes.”
A strong start saw Dolores build a 10-5 lead on the strength of five early points from Seekins. Ridgway closed out the opening quarter on a 12-0 run highlighted by a three-point play by Jamling Sherpa.
Down 18-10 to begin the second quarter and later falling behind 20-10 after a layup by Ridgway’s Robert Beserra, Dolores mounted a 12-2 run of its own and tied the game 22-22 after a pretty drive to the basket and layup by junior Hayden Tallmadge.
Momentum swung back to Ridgway however, as the Demons employed an aggressive full-court press during the final three minutes of the second quarter. The Demons led 27-22 at halftime.
“We just really gotta work on our press break,” Seekins said. “We are incapable of breaking a press right now and we need to fix that to be competitive.”
With the game hanging in the balance during the third quarter, Dolores employed a full-court press of its own and cut the deficit to 31-30 after Ertel-Moralez converted a tough floater along the baseline.
Trailing 35-31 to begin the fourth quarter, the Bears pulled even closer and trailed 37-35 after two impressive left-handed jump hooks by JJ Brunner that came after the junior forward posted up and made aggressive moves to the basket.
However, a spate of turnovers over the final four minutes doomed Dolores. And Ridgway closed the contest on a 5-3 run – securing the victory.
“We gave up all sorts of turnovers, most of them unforced to be honest,” Schmitt said. “I didn’t feel like the defensive pressure was so strong that we couldn’t have broken the press and gotten good shot selection. This loss was self-inflicted.”
Leading scorers for the Bears included Ertel-Moralez, who scored 9 points, Tallmadge, who scored 6 points, Wyatt Koskie and Seekins, who both scored five points, and Ryan Nowlin and Brunner, who both chipped in 4.
Ridgway was led offensively by Kaden Forrest, who scored a game-high 13 points. Jamling Sherpa and Andrew Winkelmann both scored 9 points for the Demons.
Next up for Dolores will be a tough road matchup against San Juan Basin League powerhouse Ignacio, which will take place Friday.