As Mancos High School girls basketball coach Kerri Morgan stood on the sidelines and watched her team soar past Montezuma-Cortez High School by a score of 39-20 on Feb. 23, she could not think back to five years ago when she began coaching the program.
At the time, seniors Tia Imel, Lizzy Mee, Madi Hale and Americus Romero-Keller were inexperienced eighth graders, who, although talented, could have hardly dreamed of one day beating a Class 3A opponent on that opponent’s home floor.
“I’ve gotten to coach the senior class since they were eighth graders,” Morgan said. “I got to move to high school with them, and it has been like watching your own kids grow up. It has been a journey and it has been one of those things that I wouldn’t want any other way. It has been awesome.”
Just how much the Lady Jays have grown since Morgan took over became evident from the start of their contest as Imel, junior Rhiley Montoya and freshman Quincy Montoya pushed the ball down the court and put M-CHS defenders on their heels.
After five points from Hale, a fast-break layup by Quincy Morgan and a free throw by freshman Teya Yeomans gave Mancos an 8-0 lead early on, M-CHS battled back to cut their deficit to 10-7 in part to a pretty post move by Kaydence Tom that resulted in an old-fashioned 3-point play.
As the second quarter got underway with the Lady Jays leading by three points, both teams traded buckets before Mancos closed the first half on an 8-1 run that ended with a steal and transition layup by Hale that put Mancos ahead 20-11.
“I think our transition game was really good tonight,” Imel said. “We got the ball down the court, and we had a lot of layups from that.”
Although fast-break points continued to make a difference for the Lady Jays in the second half, so, too, did solid work on the offensive glass by Hale and Yeomans, who continually outjumped M-CHS post players for rebounds and scored numerous second-chance points.
After a strong post-up and pretty finish in the lane by Hale gave the Lady Jays a 29-11 lead late in the third quarter, M-CHS gave its fans something to cheer about when a 3-pointer by freshman India Wright and a free throw by Tom made the score 29-15 heading into the fourth quarter.
A jump shot by Hale and a 3-point play by Yeomans two minutes into the final quarter put a win all but out of reach for M-CHS. Although the Lady Panthers continued to battle hard until the final buzzer, they were unable to cut into the Lady Jays big lead.
A scary moment for fans and players on both teams came late in the fourth quarter when Hale, Yeomans knocked heads while diving for a loose ball near the free throw line. Although Hale and Yeomans remained on the ground for a few minutes and departed the game after the scary collision, both players appeared to be OK after the win.
Leading scorers for Mancos included Hale with 19 points, freshman Quincy Montoya with eight points, Yeomans with six points and Rhiley Montoya with eight points. M-CHS was led offensively by freshman Savannah Haselroth, who scored eight.
With its record now at 2-7 overall and 1-4 in the Intermountain League, M-CHS will prepare for what would appear to be a winnable home game against Bayfield on Feb. 25.
After the Lady Jays defeated Telluride 44-35 on Feb. 24, their record stands at 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the San Juan Basin League heading into what figures to be a tough road matchup against Dove Creek on Feb. 26.
“We are just trying to push through and keep our heads above water and play on,” said Kerri Morgan, when asked about her team’s playoff hopes. “I hope we get the go-ahead (to play in the playoffs). “I’m hoping that (the ranking systems) think that we are part of the elite. I definitely think that we are.”