On a night in which its seniors were honored, the Mancos High School girls basketball team picked up a 44-28 win over Nucla High School on Feb. 13.
Again setting the tone for her team offensively was Lady Jays’ junior Madi Hale, who mixed impressive outside shooting with physical play in the paint while scoring a game-high 19 points.
Also delivering a solid performance was Mancos senior Isis Jaime, whose gritty performance on both ends of the court and 11 total points inspired her team.
“Isis and our other seniors, (Kacey Wallace and Emmalee Asnicar) have meant a lot to this program,” head coach Kerri Morgan said. “They’ve put the hour in, they’ve put the time in. On and off the court, they are going to do great things.”
While Hale and Jaime shouldered much of their team’s offensive burden, five Lady Jays players chipped in points in the first quarter, which ended with Mancos leading 11-3.
Jaime’s aggressive drive to the basket midway through the quarter put Mancos ahead 9-0, and sophomore Rhiley Morgan-Montoya scored the final basket of the quarter after pulling down an offensive board.
“I feel like we had to start off strong,” Mancos junior Lizzy Mee said. “If we don’t start strong, it’s hard to get back up.”
Although the first eight minutes were positive for Mancos, the team lost its momentum midway through the second quarter by turning the ball over and allowing Nucla to go on a 5-3 run and close to quarter to 18-10.
“We didn’t’ play the way that we wanted to play tonight. It was kind of an ugly game, but we did get the win,” Morgan said. “(The mood) in our locker room is pretty good.”
Looking to put the game away in the second half, Mancos stumbled and allowed Nucla to narrow the gap to 18-14 before Hale restored order by knocking down an elbow jump shot and a layup over the final four minutes of the third quarter.
Up 27-17 with eight minutes to go, Mancos added to its lead when Jaime came through with a beautiful post move that was highlighted by a ball fake and an aggressive step through two defenders.
Then, Hale delivered what was arguably the most impressive play of the game in the fourth quarter when she drove the length of the floor and stepped around a defender before drawing a foul, scooping a layup into the basket, and hitting a free throw to give Mancos a 34-24 lead.
“We’ve had a lot of coaching, we’ve learned a lot of things, and the effort being put out by the girls is more than it was at the beginning of the season,” Wallace said, when asked about Hale’s nifty move and her team’s recent improvements.
Riding high heading into the final stretch of its season, the Lady Jays will look to improve on their 3-14 overall record and 3-6 record in the SJBL against Ignacio High School on Feb. 18.
“We’ll have to raise the bar if we want to remain competitive against Ignacio,” Morgan said. “We can’t turn the ball over and we have to be able to handle their pressure.”