Throughout the first half of its game against Dove Creek on Feb. 26, the Mancos High School boys basketball team found itself in a dogfight against a team that was eager to prove that it belongs among the San Juan Basin League’s elite.
As the second half got underway, however, the Bluejays flexed their collective muscles on both ends of the floor and pulled away for a 65-41 victory in front of a spirited group of Dove Creek fans.
“I think we were flustered and didn’t expect it,” said Mancos junior Evan Sehnert about the first half. “They were a lot better team than they have been in the past and I congratulate them for that.”
While several factors contributed to the Bluejays second-half explosion, chief among them was an increased level of energy on the defensive end as senior Christian Cova, junior Edgar Hernandez and Sehnert harassed Dove Creek ball handlers on all areas of the floor.
Also playing a role in Mancos’ second-half run were two third-quarter 3-pointers by Sehnert, the first of which gave his team a 34-26 lead, and the second of which put the Bluejays ahead 41-26 midway through the third quarter.
“Coach (Archibeque) has been telling me I put too much effort in to not shoot those,” said Sehnert, when asked about his long bombs. “I just came out and had the open shot. I decided to put them in, and they felt good tonight. They were a good turning point for our team, and they gave us a lot of energy.”
Although the third and fourth quarters did not prove to be competitive, the opening half was tight as Dove Creek stood toe-to-toe with Mancos and found itself ahead 16-13 after junior Kade Hankins scored on a two-on-one break.
A 3-pointer by Bluejays freshman Kail Wayman from the top of the key as the first quarter buzzer sounded put Mancos ahead 18-17, however, and after Wayman knocked down another 3-pointer early in the second quarter, the Bluejays led 21-19.
With his team ahead 29-26 lead into halftime after a steal and transition layup by freshman Chris Medina and a 3-pointer by Sehnert to end the second quarter, Mancos head coach Bob Archibeque took his team into its locker room and implored players to increase their energy.
The Bluejays responded in the third quarter as junior Connor Showalter began to dominate the offensive glass on his way to 15 second-half points and junior Edgar Hernandez began attacking the basket while scoring 10 second-half points.
“Mancos came out much more intense than we did (in the second half),” Dove Creek head coach Ty Gray said. “They came out wanting it, and I think we were happy with the first half.”
Ahead 45-31 heading into the fourth quarter, Mancos quickly extinguished any chance of a Dove Creek comeback when Hernandez quickly knocked down two free throws, Showalter scored a jump shot and a put-back layup, and Sehnert scored a twisting layup in the paint.
Although a 3-pointer by Cressler cut into the Bluejays lead and made the score 53-38, the Bluejays depth and energy proved too much for the Bulldogs to overcome as Mancos eventually coasted to a 24-point win.
“We came out, we were fired up, and we weren’t flat on our feet on defense (in the first half),” Cressler said. “Our defense and how tired were was the difference (in the second half). I don’t know if it was our conditioning, but we came out pretty flat in the second half.”
Among the offensive leaders for the Bulldogs were Hankins with 13 points, Cressler with eight points, sophomore Tanner Williams with seven points and senior Hayden Gray with six points.
Mancos was led offensively by Showalter with 19 points, Sehnert with 17 points, Hernandez with 12 points and Wayman with seven points.
With its record now at 6-3 overall and 5-1 in the San Juan Basin League, Dove Creek will look to return to its winning ways when it travels to Ouray for a game on Feb. 27.
Mancos will put its 9-1 overall record and 6-1 SJBL record on the line when it returns home to face Dolores on Feb. 27.
“(Dolores) definitely has a size advantage,” Sehnert said. “They’re a really good team, and we’re not going to underestimate them at all. We’re just going to come out and do what we can do.”