Defense settles Ignacio’s nerves

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald Ignacio head coach Justa Whitt turned to defense to wrap up the Bobcats’ victory over Bloomfield in Tuesday night’s season opener. Whitt, an assistant for the last three years, took over as the head coach this season.

By Dale Strode Herald staff writer

IGNACIO – When the Ignacio Bobcats needed something to settle their nerves in Tuesday night’s season opener, they turned to a familiar remedy – defense.

The Ignacio High School girls basketball team, with a fourth-quarter surge fueled by defensive pressure, turned back pesky Bloomfield 49-34 in the first game under new head coach Justa Whitt.

“I told the girls, ‘Good job. Way to get that first win. Way to work hard,’” Whitt said after the Bobcats’ victory.

“We’ve got some kinks to work out, but overall we did well,” said Whitt, who credited new assistant coach Bri Simbeck with a key defensive adjustment late in the game.

After leading by 10 to 12 points for three-plus quarters, Ignacio saw its lead shrink to 37-30 when Broomfield’s Jasmine Sappington turned a putback basket into a three-point play with 6 minutes, 27 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.

“My assistant suggested we press until we (extended the lead),” Whitt said of Simbeck, a former player at Durango High School and Regis University.

The defensive pressure, combined with relentless rebounding on the offensive glass by Michelle Simmons, Cloe Seibel, Mariah Vigil and Val Armstrong, produced a quick 10-0 run for Ignacio.

Pam Cotton started the run with a long 2-pointer.

Ellie Seibel followed with a 3-pointer from the left side after an IHS steal.

Armstrong canned a free throw, and Simmons hit a putback, and the Ignacio Bobcats rolled on to the final 15-point win over the Bloomfield Bobcats (0-2).

“They stepped it up (in the fourth quarter),” Whitt said after the Ignacio girls closed with 16 points in the final eight minutes.

They led 33-23 at halftime.

“We were getting some good looks. But I want us to execute much better than we did,” Whitt said. “We didn’t get enough rotation of the ball (around the Bloomfield zone defense).”

Ignacio’s offense improved when the defensive intensity increased.

“I think we were just nervous,” Simmons said after battling foul trouble in the season opener.

“We played like we never played before ... I think it was just nerves,” she said.

Simmons had a game-high 12 rebounds with 10 points for a double-double to start her senior season.

“We’ve been playing together forever. We know how to do everything,” Simmons said.

She, too, said the defensive pressure late proved the difference against Bloomfield.

“Defense wins our games ... that’s what (coach Whitt) says. That’s the main thing,” said Simmons, daughter of Kelley Herrera.

“Oh yes, we were very nervous,” said senior Pam Cotton, who led IHS with 14 points.

“We ... had a little bit more defense (in the fourth quarter),” said Cotton, daughter of Fred and Jennifer Cotton.

“We’ve got to work on some stuff, but ... we’re glad we got our win.”

Vigil and Cloe Seibel added six points each for Ignacio (1-0).

IHS will play Aztec at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the opening round of the Shiprock Tournament.


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