CORTEZ – The Class 2A District 3 San Juan Basin League boys championship game between Ignacio and Mancos lived up to the billing. Meeting for the third time this season, Ignacio and Mancos played for a shot to host a regional tournament next weekend.
Mancos (18-3) held the Bobcats to two field goals in the fourth quarter and outscored the Bobcats 18-9 to claim a 54-50 win Saturday at Montezuma-Cortez High School. The two teams had split their regular-season games, but it was the Bluejays who would get the big win in the tournament.
“They got real aggressive, and we committed too many turnovers at the end,” said IHS head coach Chris Valdez. “We couldn’t step to the ball, and we didn’t make good ball fakes to passes. We played a hell of a game, and I think that’s a top-three team in the state. Their big guys are hard to matchup with, and they’re that talented. Our kids played their hearts out and tried to earn another game at our house, and we just couldn’t do it tonight.”
The Bluejays were led by Connor Showalter with 15 points. Evan Sehnert had 13, including three 3-pointers, and Caden Showalter finished with 10.
Ignacio (16-4) was led by Brady McCaw with 13 points. Keegan Schurman had 10, Bryce Finn added eight and Ocean Hunter had seven. Triston Thompson had a quiet afternoon with six points, and he committed four personal fouls.
The Bluejays trailed to start the fourth quarter 41-36 but went on a 7-0 run to take a two-point lead after Connor Showalter grabbed an offensive rebound and scored after the initial shot was blocked by McCaw. The teams then traded baskets, as Finn made his second 3-pointer of the second half that gave IHS a 44-43 lead with 4:12 to go.
Connor Showalter came through with back-to-back baskets after he made a floater and a transition layup which put the Bluejays up by three. During the Bluejays late push, Ignacio’s offense went cold, as the Bobcats did not score 2 minutes, 52 seconds until Hunter scored a layup through a foul but missed the ensuing free throw with 32.5 seconds left.
The Bluejays’ Christian Cova sealed the win with a pair of free throws with eight seconds left to give the Bluejays a second consecutive district title and the right to host a regional once more.
“I know that whenever we get the rebound, we’re always looking to push the ball up court,” Connor Showalter said. “We slowed the tempo down and went at our pace. We ran our stuff and executed well. ... It’s a very big deal to host regionals again where all the community can come and watch. It was great last year, and we’re glad that we get to host again.”
The Bobcats got off to a hot start, as they made six 3-pointers in the first half and took a 21-13 lead after the first. Ignacio extended its lead to 32-23 at halftime. Ignacio had its largest lead of the first half at 11 points after McCaw made his second 3-pointer of the afternoon to make it 30-19 with 2:45 left in the half, but Mancos closed the gap.
“We toughed it up after halftime,” said Mancos head coach Elijah Knepper. “I felt like we had a lot of opportunities later. We had a lot more deflections and tips and were able to get out in transition to get some easy baskets.”
In the third, after Finn made a 3-pointer to give IHS its largest lead of the game at 12, the offense slowed down and the Bluejays picked up their intensity on the offensive rebounds.
When Mancos started to get in a groove in the third quarter, McCaw knew the Bobcats were in for a tough final quarter.
“Mancos did a great job on defense, but I felt like we weren’t aggressive as we were in the first half,” McCaw said. “We weren’t making ball fakes. We were making dumb mistakes, and we started to play their game instead of getting back to ours. We rebounded the ball well, but I still think we should have done better.”
Both teams will find out their respective regional opponents when the Class 2A bracket is announced Monday.
Knepper said Saturday’s game proved how strong the San Juan Basin League is, and he hopes to see both teams reach the Great 8 in Loveland.
“Ignacio shoots the ball better than any 2A team we’ve seen this year,” Knepper said. “They’re so balanced, and we have good depth. Both teams fought so hard. They’re a team where if a team is a district winner and a regional host, I would not want to see the Ignacio Bobcats in my regional. ... We earned this win, and I hope we see each other at the state tournament because both teams are good enough to make it.”