Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
This one was for Addy.
With Ignacio High School boys basketball team’s starting center Adison Jones sitting the bench with a bum ankle, the rest of the Bobcats’ bigs needed to step up in a big way against Utah’ third-ranked team.
Behind Justin Carver’s 18 points and about a dozen rebounds, they did.
Ignacio’s powerful post play piled up points and opposition penalties, and the Bobcats, ranked No. 6 in Class 2A by The Denver Post, beat the Monticello Buckaroos 52-47 on Tuesday night at IHS.
“We stepped up for Addy,” Carver said.
Carver first and foremost. The Bobcats’ junior post stepped into the center with authority Tuesday night, controlling space beneath the basket on both sides of the court.
Until he fouled out in the fourth quarter, Carver served as Ignacio’s primary rebound man and a critical target for points from down low and downtown.
He hit two 3s, two layups and eight free throws, missing just one foul shot as he foisted foul after foul on the Monticello posts by “getting me the ball and just doing what I like to do best,” Carver said.
He added five points to a 10-1 Ignacio run spanning the third and fourth quarters that gave the Bobcats an 11-point lead. It was their largest of the night and enough to withstand a 21-point Buckaroos’ fourth quarter despite a bevy of Monticello 3s and a handful of sloppy, unforced Ignacio turnovers that threatened to turn over the lead at the last minute.
But if Carver’s offense helped build a lead, his defense helped maked sure the Bobcats never trailed.
IHS head coach Chris Valdez said the Bobcats knew they needed to control Monticello’s 6-4 Jake Duncan, who made “layup after layup after layup” in the Buckaroos’ blowouts.
“Just keep them in front, and don’t let them shoot,” Wyatt Hayes said of keeping Monticello’s big men in check.
Carver, with the help of fellow post Austin Haire, did better: They put Duncan in foul trouble, then on the pine by going up hard underneath the hoop.
“We weren’t afraid of him,” Valdez said. “He’s really an athlete deluxe. But he was on the bench the whole game.”
They got plenty of help, too, from guards Hayes and Clayton Jefferson, both of whom swarmed every Buckaroos’ attempt to pass the ball down low and racked up the steals.
“That’s really something our guards just have (on) instinct,” Carver said. “They’re making post work easy for us.”
Duncan finished with just three points, as the Bobcats (14-3, 5-0 San Juan Basin League) held the Buckaroos to just six points in the first frame, then 10 in each the second and third. Gunnar Hollingsworth led Monticello with 10.
Hayes also made the win just a little bit easier for the Bobcats, converting two consecutive fourth-quarter steals into points – first with an assist to Kelton Richmond, then on a foul shot of his own to keep the Bobcats on top by 10 heading into the final two minutes.
“I said, ‘You’re an amazing kid,’ as he walked by,” Carver said of Hayes.
Hayes and Jefferson each scored 11 points, half on free throws as IHS shot 21 of 27 from the line.
“Key,” Carver said. “Free throws win championships and so does defense.”
Tuesday, they took the Bobcats one more step toward one.