CONEJOS COUNTY – Even after not one but two visiting Ignacio Bobcats required help to leave the court after suffering freakish first-quarter injuries, Sanford point guard Asia Caldon knew her side hadn’t really caught a break.
After all, when the stanza concluded, the scoreboard showed host Sanford holding only a one-point (16-15) lead against the Ignacio High School girls basketball team.
“Not much changed,” the junior said following the teams’ much-anticipated collision Saturday inside SHS Gymnasium. “We just knew we needed to push the floor, go at our game pace, not settle for their pace and do what we know how to do. Push the ball and look for the best shots we could.”
Even without senior Ebonee Gomez (left ankle, 7:39 left in the first) and junior Monika Lucero (right ankle, 0:28 left), IHS still had plenty of shooters willing to shoulder the lost load. In particular, senior Jayden and sophomore Laci Brunson combined to nail five 3-pointers and buoy the guests into the third quarter before conditioning (Sanford had won the previous two nights; Ignacio was making its 2020-21 season debut) became a deciding factor in a 51-41 defeat.
“We lost two of our players, so that was tough, but we just knew if we kept pushing we could hang in there with them,” said Jayden Brunson, who hit three 3s and totaled a team-high 12 points. “We hadn’t had much practice, so I think we all were a little nervous that we were going to run out of gas. Weren’t in the best shape, so I think we did pretty well with that.”
“We were already short-subbed,” said Laci Brunson, who hit two 3s and had nine points. “I mean, we only had two (she and Lucero came in off the bench) plus a freshman (post Solymar Cosio), so losing those two was a big struggle.”
Yet it wouldn’t appear so until much later in the contest.
Jayden Brunson started the second quarter with a 3, and Laci Brunson soon followed with two more to put coach Justa Whitt’s Bobcats (0-1, 0-0 2A/1A San Juan Basin) up 24-19. But Sanford steadied and would embark on a critical 13-0 run ending the first half – punctuated by junior Cheyenne Caldon’s 3 with five seconds left – and starting the second.
“Just adjusting to what they were doing and finding open shots no matter what,” she said. “And just playing good defense; that’s our staple; always trying to stop them in whatever way we can.”
Cheyenne Caldon got the third quarter underway with a scoring drive through the lane, upping the surging Indians’ lead to 32-24 before Jayden Brunson at last netted a 3-pointer. But as the tempo slowed, Ignacio – at the time ranked seventh in the preseason CHSAANow.com Class 2A poll; Sanford, victorious over non-leaguers Westcliffe Custer County and Mancos the previous two evenings, checked in at No. 3 – still trailed 40-29 entering the final frame.
Senior Charlize Valdez (nine points) and junior Avaleena Nanaeto (seven points) each buried a pair of free throws to bring IHS back to as close as 40-33, but Sanford sophomore Makenzie Reynolds (nine points) then drilled a key 3 in reply.
Two Asia Caldon free throws with 3:07 left rebuilt Sanford a 47-35 pad the Bobcats would be unable to crash.
In the foul-shooting department, IHS finished 16-of-30 while the Indians were an accurate 13-of-16.
Up next, Sanford (3-0) will begin 2A Southern Peaks work against loop newcomers Monte Vistam on Saturday. IHS, meanwhile, will next see action versus 3A Bayfield at 7 p.m. Friday.