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Have fun. Play hard. Win.

No-pressure vibe may take some getting used to for the Bobcats

All 12 members of the Ignacio High School boys basketball team gathered around head coach Chris Valdez after the team’s final practice in their home gymnasium Tuesday.

Valdez spoke about how far they’d come and what they’d been able to accomplish in a gym rarely cleaned and surrounded by construction.

“It’s not about the fans in the stands,” he said. “It’s about the players on the floor. Who wants it more. Who can turn it on at the right time.”

He spoke with the confidence of a coach who is returning to the state quarterfinals for the second consecutive year and to a team that has been there before.

Last season didn’t measure up to what the Bobcats wanted. They finished third after entering the state tournament unbeaten. But that experience has taught them everything they needed about the CHSAA Class 2A State Championships.

“Last year we had a lot of pressure on us to keep our perfect record,” said IHS senior Adison Jones, son of Greg Jones and Latisha Taylor. “This year with the three seed, we’re more relaxed.”

No. 3 IHS (21-2) face No. 6 Rye (21-3) at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in the opening round at Massari Arena in Pueblo with three goals:

Have fun.

Play hard.


No pressure, just enjoy this last weekend with your teammates.

“There’s no reason to go with pressure. When we went to the Sanford (semifinal last year) on the bus, everyone was like somebody just died. They were petrified, and it showed,” Valdez said. “We talked about what we wanted out of this. By doing those things and having fun and being excited about it, I think we can get away from being scared.”

Fear certainly won’t spring from a lack of familiarity.

Valdez has known Rye head coach Jim Hale for many years and counts him as a close friend.

The two regularly share scouting reports on teams they’ll face at this stage of the season.

Now they’re preparing to face each other instead.

“Over 21 years, I’ve got a lot of friends in this state,” Valdez said. “I don’t care if you’re my friend or not, I want to beat you. My kids want to beat your kids.”

The Thunderbolts enter the game on a 13-game winning streak, while IHS (21-2) has won 20 in a row.

Connor Hale leads Rye’s attack, scoring 19 points per game and dishing out 3.5 assists per contest.

He’ll face a point guard in Ignacio’s Wyatt Hayes equally skilled at scoring and distributing.

Hayes is taking it as a personal challenge to stop Connor Hale.

“I think we win the game if I can shut him down,” said Hayes, son of Cindy and Tim Hayes.

A win likely would pit IHS and defending state champion No. 2 Sanford, the same team that knocked the Bobcats out last season, against each other in the semifinals

No pressure.


Mar 11, 2015
Bayfield believes

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