For the Dolores Bears girls basketball team, last week's win 55-54 victory over Montezuma-Cortez High School Panthers was significant in more ways than one.
First, the home victory over the class 4A Panthers demonstrated that the Bears are capable of competing with anyone, including teams above their classification.
Second, the victory signified a moment of growth for a young Bears team composed of two seniors, four juniors and five underclassmen.
And finally, the win was important because it only became possible after several role players stepped up to assist Bears super-senior Brianna Schwartz.
Unsure of how they would match up against the Class 4A Panthers, the Bears played well early, sprinting to a 13-12 first-quarter lead before entering the lockeroom at halftime with the score deadlocked 27-27.
Riding the stellar play of Schwartz throughout in the second half, the Bears opened up a lead during the third quarter, pulling ahead 41-35 entering the fourth.
The Panthers proved to be far from done however, and after falling behind by eight points early in the fourth, roared back to pull within one point with under a minute to go.
Largely as a result of the strong rebounding of junior Taylor Elder and the clutch free throw shooting of sophomore Larissa Umberger, the Bears managed to hold on after a three-pointer by Yanibah Bayles late in the fourth quarter clanged off the rim.
Leading the Bears with a season-high 26 points in the contest was Schwartz, who, once again, proved herself to be one of the top players in the San Juan Basin League.
With their record now at 5-3, the Bears will return to the practice floor in preparation for a Jan. 18 home matchup against Nucla. The game is slated to begin at 3:30 p.m.