The Ignacio High School boys basketball team finished a crucial season sweep of the Mancos High School Bluejays on Tuesday night. IHS head coach Chris Valdez is still unsure it will get the Bobcats a higher seed than Mancos when Class 2A state playoff brackets are announced Monday.
Two weeks after Ignacio went into then third-ranked Mancos and beat the Bluejays 68-50, it was the Bobcats turn to host the big 2A San Juan Basin League showdown. After a senior night tribute, IHS came out a bit flat offensively but did enough to hold a 19-13 lead at halftime thanks to a big second quarter.
No. 9 IHS (10-2, 7-2 SJBL) was able to keep it up in the second half and hold of Mancos’ best efforts to secure a 47-44 victory to sweep No. 8 Mancos (10-2, 7-2 SJBL) and claim another league title.
“We didn’t play our best game early,” Valdez said, noting the 5-5 tie after one quarter. “I think we had a real tough emotional thing with it being the last home game for our seniors. You come out stale every time in those games. We didn’t do very good offensively, but no matter how bad we do offensively, our defense is what holds us in the game. It’s been our staple and helped us again tonight.”
IHS presents a tough matchup problem for its opponents with the length of Brady McCaw, Bryce Finn, Dylan Labarthe and Gabe Tucson along with the physical prowess of Joe Garcia. That was key again Tuesday night.
“What people don’t see much with Joe is that on the days he’s not scoring, he’s guarding one of their best players and being physical,” Valdez said. “Even against fast kids, Joe can stay in front of them and play physical enough that a fast guy can’t hurt him. I really like that with our defense.”
Tucson led IHS with 16 points Tuesday night. Finn added 15 while McCaw scored eight, Labarthe had five and Garcia finished with three.
Mancos was led by Evan Sehnert, who had 16 points. Edgar Hernandez finished with 10, and Connor Showalter was held to seven.
Tucson was big at the foul line, as he made 5-of-6. But his only miss led to the key exchange of the game. With 7.2 seconds on the clock, Hernandez got the ball after a Tucson missed free throw and raced up the court and passed to freshman Chris Medina, who missed a desperation 3-point try wide left at the buzzer.
Mancos had been within 42-41 with 4:36 to play, but Tucson would score a basket and then make two free throws to give IHS a more comfortable advantage. With 1:15 to go, Hernandez would get a layup and one free throw after he was fouled shooting that brought it back within 46-44.
After McCaw missed two free throws with 11.5 seconds to go, Labarthe got a huge offensive rebound for the Bobcats and kicked the ball out to Tucson, who was fouled and would make his 1-of-2 at the line.
IHS finished 11-of-21 at the foul line, while Mancos went 9-of-11. IHS made six 3-pointers to three for the Bluejays.
The Bobcats will finish the regular season Thursday night at Dove Creek, while Mancos will face Nucla on the road Thursday before hosting Ridgway in the regular-season finale Saturday.
There is no league tournament this year or regionals because of the COVID-19 pandemic and related season alterations. Teams will be seeded directly into a single-elimination bracket Monday. Though IHS swept Mancos, Valdez still believes the Bobcats could get seeded behind the team it has beat twice.
“Whether you prove it or not, it doesn’t mean anything because it’s all computerized now,” Valdez said. “The fact is us and Mancos have played the exact same schedule except we played Sargent, which has zero wins, and they played Nucla, which has three wins. It doesn’t matter if we have the same record or beat them twice, there’s no way with the mathematical equation we can possibly pass them unless we move up several places in front of them in the coaches poll, which is the only human element factored into CHSAA’s equation.
“Still, they are 41 points ahead of us in the coaches poll. They’ll probably be ranked higher than us, and if we have to play them in the playoffs, we will probably have to go there and play.”