With one of his finest hustle plays yet, guard Cole McCaw timed his jump and blocked Mancos freshman Christian Cova’s three-point attempt, preserving the Bobcats’ 20-9 lead with 4:17 before halftime.
Ignacio coach Chris Valdez knew the senior’s defensive play had provided essential inspiration in Tuesday’s game.
“Cole tonight didn’t score a point,” Valdez said afterward. “And I told them in the locker room (at halftime), ‘We’re not ahead by 29 (38-9) if Cole McCaw’s not in the game.’ ... He had the big block, had great defense, getting tips and deflections, helping other people get steals.”
For Ignacio, defense was key as the Bobcats entered the San Juan Basin League contest against the vaunted 6-1 Mancos Bluejays, who are led by big man Caden Showalter. Ignacio’s efforts paid off.
After McCaw’s swat, senior Kai Roubideaux drove around a screen for two points at the other end, and Hunter rejected a Mancos shot that resulted in a three-point play by senior guard Johnny Valdez, who drew Mancos senior Caleb Yoder’s third personal foul.
Up 26-9 with 2:55 remaining in the second quarter, Ignacio didn’t let up. Hunter took a Roubideaux feed for an easy hoop, junior guard Lawrence Valdez hit a layup, and Johnny Valdez followed with a layup and a 16-footer.
Roubideaux then put an emphatic stamp on the half with a one-on-one stuff of Mancos sophomore center Showalter with 30 seconds left, which yielded a Lawrence Valdez breakaway layup at the other end. Putting salt in the wound, Johnny Valdez swished two free throws with 0:03 left on the clock, after drawing 6-foot-4 Showalter’s second foul.
“We knew that they were going to be tough,” coach Valdez said.
“Showalter would get his ... especially once we put our younger guys in,” he said.
Having proved a viable option offensively in support of Showalter with five first-quarter points, Yoder committed his fourth foul with 6:40 left in the third quarter. And though Cova did cash a three, getting the Jays into double digits at 45-12 and ending what had been a 25-0 Bobcat scoring run, the guests’ hopes of a miraculous rally were dashed when Lawrence Valdez coldly canned a three-pointer immediately after Cova.
With Mancos down 51-20 through three quarters inside the Ignacio gym, Showalter scored eight points against Ignacio’s second team in the fourth to finish with a team-high 16. However, behind freshman posts Dylan Labarthe (7 points) and Bryce Finn (2 points), the Bobcats still won the fourth by a 16-13 margin, increasing their final lead to 67-33.
Yoder finished with his initial five points, and Cova also managed five. Junior Hunter Hoover scored three off James Lewis’ bench, and senior regular Jake McKie was held to two.
Three-of-three from the charity stripe and with four thre-pointers to his name, Johnny Valdez booked a game-best 23 points as Ignacio improved to 4-1 overall, and 3-0 in the San Juan league. Roubideaux, who began the game sinking two technical-foul free throws and then assisting on a Johnny Valdez backdoor layup, registered 14.
Lawrence Valdez totaled 13 points and Hunter eight as Ignacio effectively followed up its 81-52 rout of 3A Basalt three days earlier in the third-place game of the “Rumble in The Jungle” at Montezuma-Cortez.
With only a 56-48 loss to 3A Moab-Grand County in the Rumble, coach Valdez was pleased with the Bobcats’ development.
“Everybody has stepped up their game, so I’m real proud of them this far,” he said.
Mancos (6-1 overall and 2-0 2A/1A San Juan Basin League) will resume work hosting league rival Dolores (3-4, 1-1) on Jan. 9. Ignacio will battle Bayfield (2-4, 0-0 3A Intermountain) at 7 p.m. on Jan. 5, Day 1 of the Southwest Colorado Classic, hosted this year by Bayfield.