Playing at home against Telluride on Jan. 11, the Bears built a 15-point lead in the first quarter before allowing the Miners to climb back in the game. Dolores eventually pulled away for a 48-35 victory.
“We’ve been preaching defense, and in the first half, I loved our defense,” said Dolores head coach Larry Schwartz, who exuded intensity as the Bears build a 15-0 lead during the first quarter. “We’ve been preaching defense, and in the first half, I loved our defense.”
Among the Bears players who made significant contributions on the defensive end were juniors Tristan Swagerty, Dakota Smith, and Forest Pejsa, whose ability to alter Telluride shots and control numerous rebounds made it almost impossible for the Miners to score.
Smith also made his presence known on the offensive end as the multifaceted forward opened the game with a three-pointer from the right wing to put his team ahead 3-0 and later scored the final six points of the first-quarter on nifty post moves to put Dolores ahead 15-0.
The Bears maintained their double-digit lead thanks to a fast break layup and two free throws by senior Justin Purkat and four more points by Smith and carried a 23-9 lead into halftime, yet Dolores players were not altogether pleased with their first-half performance.
“The second quarter, we kind of let off the gas, and they scored some points,” said Smith. “We lost our defensive intensity a little bit.”
Looking to begin the second half with renewed intensity, the Bears pulled ahead 30-11 after Smith hit a turnaround jumper and Purkat scored a driving layup and a three-pointer from the left wing.
Telluride began to catch fire however, and thanks to eight third-quarter points from Ian Enkema, cut the Bears’ lead to 32-27 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We stopped doing what we had preached in the second half, which was defense, and that hurt us,” Schwartz said. “Telluride is a very streaky team. They are either hot or cold and they really heated up in the third quarter.”
After Telluride cut Dolores’ lead to 32-29 with seven minutes left in the contest, Bears players began to look to Pejsa, who scored three straight free throws to open the quarter. The muscular junior scored six straight points later in the quarter after Telluride cut the Bears’ lead to 34-33.
“I was just playing strong down low, and my shots happened to keep going in,” Pejsa said. “We play together in practice, and we’re all pretty strong. We work really hard on our (inside game), and we’ve played together for four or five years now, which helps.”
Up 40-33 with just over four minutes to go, Dolores closed the game on an 8-2 run to secure the victory. Smith led the Bears in scoring with 17 points, Purkat chipped in 14 points, Pejsa scored 12 points, and Swagerty scored five.
Dolores followed up its victory over Telluride with a 48-22 win over Norwood on Jan. 13. The Bears trailed 16-12 at halftime before outscoring the Mavericks 21-1 in the third quarter and 15-5 in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
Now 6-4 on the year, Dolores will return to the practice court to prepare for a road matchup against Ridgway on Jan. 20 and a road matchup against Ouray on Jan. 26.
“I feel pretty good about our team,” Smith said. “We’re a great group of guys, and I just want to keep working and see how (the season) turns out.”