Thanks to the steady shooting of Caleb Yoder and standout performances from numerous role players, the Mancos High School boys basketball team defeated Telluride, 68-58, in the first round of the Class 2A District 3 Tournament on Feb. 23.
With the win, the Bluejays guaranteed themselves a spot at regionals and a district championship matchup against Ignacio, at the Montezuma-Cortez High School gymnasium on Saturday.
“Our team hasn’t played in the (District Tournament) since my sophomore year, and I’ve never won the first round,” said Bluejays senior Caleb Yoder. “It’s a great feeling, and I’m super excited.”
Among the many factors contributing to Mancos’ big win was the team’s ability to remain composed during a first half that saw Telluride shooters knock down five three-point field goals and storm to a 22-21 lead late in the second quarter.
An impressive second-quarter by Hunter Hoover sparked the Bluejays however, as the junior big man came off the bench and scored eight second-quarter points to help his team build a 27-24 halftime lead.
“Last time we played Telluride, we didn’t come out very well, and we didn’t play together,” Hoover said. “Tonight, we just had to come out with energy and play as a team.”
After leaning heavily on Hoover throughout the second quarter, the Bluejays exited the locker room at halftime intent on utilizing the talents of fellow big man Caden Showalter, who opened the third quarter with a pretty no-look assist and two layups to put his team ahead 35-24.
Realizing that Showalter’s inside presence could be their undoing, Telluride packed the paint in an attempt to limit easy layups only to see Yoder find his range and knock down three silky-smooth jump shots from the outside.
Leading 47-31 entering the fourth quarter, it appeared as if Mancos would coast to an easy victory. But Bluejays turnovers and Telluride’s hot shooting cut Mancos’ lead deficit to 62-56 before late-game free throws by Yoder and Showalter iced the victory.
While the offensive contributions of Yoder, Showalter, and Hoover played a significant role in the victory, solid performances by the Bluejays’ role players, including freshman Christian Cova and sophomore Hunter Goodwin, proved key down the stretch.
Yoder led the Bluejays in scoring with 20 points, Showalter poured in 14, Hoover chipped in 12, Cova registered 7, and Goodwin scored 6. Reed Schacht led Telluride in scoring with 24 points and Ian Enkema scored 12 for the Miners.
Already guaranteed a spot in regionals, Mancos will look to dethrone Ignacio in the district finals after losing to the Bobcats twice earlier this year. Asked how his team can defeat Ignacio, Yoder emphasized that effort and composure will be key.
“We need to play hard,” Yoder said. “We played them close at home so we know that (a win) is absolutely possible. We need to go out there and give it everything and see what happens.”