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Ignacio girls basketball falls to Holyoke in Great 8

Dragons go 12-of-15 from free-throw line to seal win

LOVELAND – Foul trouble was Ignacio’s worst enemy in Thursday’s CHSAA Class 2A Great 8 girls basketball state tournament quarterfinal game against Holyoke.

Ignacio fought back from a 10-point deficit in the third quarter, but the Bobcats’ overeagerness to try and take the lead resulted in too many whistles. The Dragons made the most of their night at the free-throw line, as they went 12-of-15 in the fourth quarter and won 47-32 to advance past the Bobcats and into the state semifinals.

“I think it was nerves at the beginning of the game, and that always happens up here,” said Ignacio head coach Justa Whitt. “We went in the locker room, the girls regrouped and were ready to fight. They did, and it was awesome. You can’t win a game when 20 free throws are made, and we only get a shot at four. We definitely had a breakdown in the fourth quarter, and unfortunately, the foul situation hurt us.”

The game was played in front of only a handful of fans after CHSAA closed the state tournament to the general public because of concerns over the COVID-19 virus. Aside from essential personnel, each player was allowed to have four guests on the gate list. Ignacio traveled well, with the boys team also playing in the Great 8, but it still produced a crowd well below the average attendance of the Great 8.

The game proved to be meaningless, however. Moments after the Class 2A state quarterfinals had concluded, CHSAA announced it would cancel the rest of the state tournament.

Ignacio’s Makayla Howell tries lifting the ball over Holyoke’s Kristen Vieselmeyer during Thursday’s Great 8 state quarterfinal game in Class 2A at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland.

Thursday night, the No. 2 Dragons (23-1) were led by Kristen Vieselmeyer with 13 points. Lauren Herman and Emily Jelden each added 12.

“I felt like we controlled the tempo of our game, and our free-throw shooting was great tonight,” said Dragons’ head coach John Baumgartner. “Emily Jelden is one of the best point guards in the state, and while she doesn’t score much, she was really good at the line. That’s something we’ve been working on, and that’s so important in playoff basketball. You’ve got to get it done, and we did tonight.”

No. 7 Ignacio (18-6) ended its 15-game winning streak with the defeat. The Bobcats were led in scoring by Ebonee Gomez with eight points, while Makayla Howell and Avaleena Nanaeto had six and Jayden Brunson had five.

Foul trouble plagued the Bobcats to start the game, as three players picked up two fouls each by halftime. Still, Ignacio was aggressive as ever on defense, as it forced seven Dragon turnovers in the first quarter.

IHS was unlucky from 3-point range in the first quarter. Holyoke was able to get three baskets down low, as Visselmeyer scored four quick points and Herman hit a 3-pointer. Holyoke led 12-4 after the first quarter.

Ignacio’s Charlize Valdez shows no quit on a hard drive past Holyoke’s Emily Jelden on Thursday night in the Class 2A state quarterfinals at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland.

In the second, the Bobcats found a response with a good mix of its inside-out game. Howell made the Bobcats’ first 3-pointer with 5:59 left in the half to cut the deficit to 12-7. But the Dragons outscored IHS 7-4 to close the quarter and entered halftime with a 19-11 lead.

Ignacio came out much stronger in the second half on defense, as it held Holyoke to four total field goals, but IHS was unable to keep out of foul trouble. The Dragons were 7-of-10 at the free-throw line, and Jelden went 5-of-6 from the line.

Ignacio got back in it from 3-point shooting, as Brunson and Larissa Gallegos hit back-to-back 3s to cut the deficit 25-24 with 3:17 left in the quarter. The Dragons closed the quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 31-24 lead heading into the fourth.

In the final frame, Ignacio kept up its half-court press, but the Bobcats were unable to get stops. The Dragons’ post play was too much, as Vieselmeyer put the nail in the coffin with an offensive rebound and putback layup to put the Dragons up 15 with under three minutes left.

Ignacio’s season is now over without the chance to earn redemption or its first-ever state tournament win.

bploen@durangoherald.com

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