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Bayfield earns season split with Ignacio in boys basketball

Roderick nets 26 in highlight-heavy home win
Watched by teammate Trace Crane (3) and Bayfield's Kingston Martinez (13), Ignacio's Gabe Cox (21) grabs an offensive rebound during the teams' second 2023-24 meeting Saturday afternoon inside BHS Gymnasium. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

The sight of former Ignacio assistant coach Damon White Thunder coaching against the Bobcats – with former ’Cats Bryce Finn and Dylan Labarthe now aiding him on Bayfield’s bench – may have been the prime focus when the Wolverines traveled to IHS Gymnasium for the teams’ first regular-season clash.

This past Saturday’s rematch truly featured the players.

As the action intensified through the second and third quarters inside BHS Gymnasium, highlight-reel shots seemed to fall faster and faster as the appreciative crowd cheered louder and louder.

But with junior guard Cooper Roderick, becoming one of the Pine River Valley’s purest shooters in years, cashing three 3-pointers and racking up a game-high 26 points, Bayfield ultimately capitalized on more opportunities in recording a 55-44 win.

Bayfield improved to 3-13 overall and 1-6 in 3A/4A Intermountain league play. Ignacio fell to 6-9 overall and 2-5 in league play.

“Senior Night, ‘Blackout’ night – we got to wear our black jerseys – it was just all fun,” said White Thunder, who inserted junior-varsity regulars Dominick Albo and Sean Zimmerman into his starting lineup, along with cornerstone Cody Ross to give his seniors a chance to share the court in view of their home fans.

The Bobcats opened the game with two baskets from sophomore Trace Crane plus 3-pointers from both sophomore Ambrose Valdez and senior Trajan Garcia – both entered as substitutes – in building up a promising 10-2 lead through eight minutes.

Ignacio’s lead grew to 15-5 before Valdez was given a technical foul with 4:21 left in the first half.

Roderick made one of two free throws, then soon hit two of three after drawing a foul while shooting from behind the arc. Roderick’s next two makes from the foul line brought the Wolverines back to 18-14. Junior reserve Austin Wilmer made three of four tries from the charity stripe to help Bayfield take a 20-19 lead.

The Bobcats made things interesting, though. Receiving a pass from senior Phillip Quintana out on the left wing, barely more than an arm’s length away from Bayfield’s student section, Ignacio junior Coty Webb considered twisting left, but spun right and in the same motion let a buzzer-beating 3-pointer fly off the window and down through the net.

Roderick began the third quarter answering with a 3, again cutting the deficit down to just single digits. After the pace slowed somewhat, the Wolverines at last gained the lead when unexpected hero Brendan Heydinger, a junior reserve, drilled a surprise 3 to put Bayfield up 25-23 with 4:41 left. Ross then fed Roderick for a transition layup with 4:19 to go, and Bobcat coach Chris Valdez had to burn a timeout.

But Bayfield – lacking injured interior presence Vin McCullough – wasn’t rattled. Junior Lincoln Williams converted a steal into two more points, and Roderick extended Bayfield’s uninterrupted scoring run to 13-0 with another trey, increasing the locals’ lead to 32-23.

Bobcats junior Charley Pargin then swished a 3, but the Wolverines weren’t shaken.

Fueled by Roderick and Williams, Bayfield held a 41-34 lead before the sneaky Pargin sank a corner 3 with 6:14 left in regulation. However, Ross responded with his only trey, rebuilding Bayfield’s lead to 46-37, and Ignacio got no closer the rest of the way than 46-40 via a Quintana 3.

“Hats off to them,” said Chris Valdez. “We went into man-to-man, which we don’t do much at all – we’re not a good ‘man’ team – and we got beat for easy layups, wide-open threes. For them it was good because their shooters came to life at the right times, and hit shots they needed to hit.”

Ambrose Valdez finished with four 3s and a team-high 14 points in defeat. Flores totaled a vital seven.

Williams scored 10 points – all in the second half – for the Wolverines, while Martinez ended with six points.

“We were getting too stagnant,” White Thunder said, reflecting on past struggles in tight games. “And now, we’ve put in more stuff to where we’re attacking downhill and everybody’s getting to the basket. It’s opened up our shooters quite a bit.”

The Bobcats faced Dove Creek on Tuesday. Ignacio will resume league work Friday night at Montezuma-Cortez, then host Centauri the following afternoon.

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