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Ignacio girls basketball doesn’t draw team it wanted for state quarterfinals

Holyoke a serious test for contender Bobcats

The Ignacio High School girls basketball team learned its quarterfinal opponent Sunday for the Class 2A girls basketball state tournament.

The Bobcats (18-5) topped No. 9 Rocky Ford 43-28 Saturday in Ignacio in the Class 2A Region 8 championship game to reach the Great 8. The Bobcats last qualified in 2018.

Ignacio entered the regional as the No. 8 seed, but after No. 23 Holly stunned No. 7 Simla in the Region 7 championship game and No. 14 Wray upset No. 3 Meeker, the Bobcats knew there was an opportunity to boost their seed.

After the re-seed Sunday, Ignacio moved up one spot to No. 7 and will take on No. 2 Holyoke (22-1) in the CHSAA Class 2A state quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland.

IHS head coach Justa Whitt called out Holyoke after Saturday’s regional win as a team she didn’t want her Bobcats to face in the first round. The teams have played each other before at the state tournament. In a 2018 consolation game, the Dragons pulled off a 45-35 win.

“The sky is the limit,” Whitt said. “Once we get to this level, it’s a hard team no matter who you get. We happened to draw Holyoke and they are one of the toughest teams in the state. (In 2018), it was the same. It helps to know that we don’t have to be up super early to play. This was the first time that we’ve been higher than an eight seed.

“I think there’s no question that these girls can hang. The chemistry between the girls is remarkable. Half the time on the bench, I’m asking them ‘Well, what do you girls think?’ They’re the ones working it out, and that’s a key, I think. To play at this level, you have to work it out together on the court and figure out how they’re going to win.”

Ignacio is on a 15-game winning streak and is led by senior captain Makayla Howell, who averages eight points per game. Sophomore Avaleena Nanaeto averages 6.4, while Charlize Valdez is at 6.1 per game. Ignacio’s defense has been phenomenal this season, giving up just 26.5 points per game, while the offense has averaged 48.5 points per game.

Holyoke’s lone loss came against top-seeded Limon. The Dragons have won their last 13 games and are also on a roll entering the state tournament. Sophomore Kristin Viselmeyer has averaged 14 points per game, Lauren Herman is the team’s second-leading scorer with 9.6, while Emily Jelden is averaging 6.6 per game.

“On the upside, we have to look at this in a positive way,” Whitt said. “Every team is beatable, including ourselves. And at this point in the game, it’s anybody’s game. It’s all about who plays better on the day. These girls beat Pagosa, and I believe we’re not going to see a tougher team than them in the state. We’ve got that reference. From the film I’ve seen so far, Holyoke seems to be similar in size with Pagosa. A couple girls are pretty stocky and they’ve got a good mix in size, whereas we’ve got a lot of small size but a lot of hard workers on the team.”

bploen@ durangoherald.com

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