Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
PUEBLO – Akron High School girls basketball has a reputation for suffocating pressure defense, the kind that led the Rams to a state championship last year.
Unfortunately for Ignacio High School, the Rams’ defense was in full effect Thursday morning in Pueblo.
Akron blitzed the Bobcats early thanks to full-court pressure defense, and the top-seeded Rams beat No. 8 seed Ignacio 60-39 on Thursday at Massari Arena on the CSU-Pueblo campus in the elite eight of the CHSAA Class 2A Girls Basketball State Championships.
Akron (25-0) stunned Ignacio (16-8) early, using its state tournament experience and strong defensive effort to jump out to a 14-0 lead in the first three minutes against the Bobcats, which are making their first appearance at the state tournament since 2003.
“They compare to Shiprock and that group down there, definitely, that kind of pressure,” Ignacio head coach Justa Whitt said.
Throughout the game, Akron packed it in defensively in the half court, gumming up potential attempts at penetration by the Bobcats, particularly Michelle Simmons, who’s noted for her ability to make things happen when she gets into the paint.
“We had trouble penetrating like we’re used to, so we couldn’t really do what we usually do,” said Mariah Vigil, daughter of Joe and Joyce Vigil.
Ignacio finished the game with an unofficial 22 turnovers while forcing 19 Akron miscues.
After trailing 38-18 at halftime, Ignacio started to get rolling a bit in the third quarter after regrouping in the locker room at intermission. The Bobcats opened the quarter on a 9-2 run to trim the Akron lead to 40-28 before the Rams rebuilt a 50-34 advantage at quarter’s end.
Valerie Armstrong said Ignacio found its footing offensively in the third quarter when the Bobcats began to spread out the Rams.
“We stayed spread out. ... Coach told us if we have a shot, take it,” said Armstrong, daughter of Kayla Armstrong.
Akron, however, was able to salt the game away by opening the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run to push the lead to 56-34.
Vigil led Ignacio with 10 points, while Simmons added nine. Armstrong had eight points for IHS.
Akron forward Sidney Merrill had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the defending state champions, while Jordan Baer added 17 and Ally Vasquez 16.
“Their size definitely became a factor in the game. Regardless of how much we prepared for that, sometimes you just can’t duplicate that size,” Whitt said.
The Bobcats will play at 10:15 a.m. today in the consolation semifinals against fourth-seeded Sangre de Cristo, which lost to Peyton 53-33 on Thursday night. The winner of today’s matchup will advance to the fifth-place game Saturday.