If the Ignacio boys basketball team thought that its game against road contest Dove Creek on March 6 was going to be a walk in the park, any such notion was quickly eradicated during a first half that saw the Bulldogs outplay the Bobcats in front of a ruckus crowd.
Ignacio’s superior depth and skill level ultimately shone through however, as the Bobcats outscored the Bobcats by 25 points over the game’s final 16 minutes on their way to a resounding 64-44 victory.
Leading scorers for Dove Creek included senior Hayden Gray, who scored 16 points, junior Kade Hankins, who netted 15 points, and junior Ryan Jarmon, who knocked down two 3-pointers and scored nine points in his team’s loss.
Ignacio was led offensively by Bryce Finn, who scored a game-high 16 points and Brady McCaw, who chipped in 14. Gabe Tucson and Dylan Labarthe each scored 11 points for the Bobcats.
“We just came out hot, and I think we surprised them a little bit in the first half,” said Gray. “They weren’t ready for it. Our lack of players after Chorbin (Cressler) got hurt and (Tanner Williams) was gone hurt us a little bit. We got tired, and we couldn’t hit any outside shots in the second half.”
While several factors contributed to Dove Creek’s first-half blitz of the Bobcats, chief among them was Gray’s play in the post, as the senior consistently overpowered Finn on his way to 12 first quarter points that helped his team build a 20-12 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Although Ignacio began to find its offensive rhythm in the second half, thanks in part to a transition layup by Labarthe and nine second quarter points by Finn, the Bulldogs maintained their lead as Hankins hits three smooth pull-up jumpers before closing the half with a free throw to put his team ahead 30-25 heading into halftime.
“We had great energy,” Hankins said. “We’ve come out on fire the last couple of games, we just haven’t been able to carry it on to the second half. In the beginning of the season, we were doing good at that, but lately, we just can’t carry it out.”
While Dove Creek’s lack of energy and lack of depth certainly affected it in the second half, so, too, did Ignacio head coach Chris Valdez’s decision to switch to a zone defense and double-team Gray whenever he touched the ball during the third and fourth quarters.
With the paint packed with Ignacio defenders and Dove Creek’s senior forward unable to score inside, the scoring onus fell to Hankins, Jarmon and the Bulldogs other young guards, who seemingly couldn’t buy a shot during the third and fourth quarters.
“The first half, we were hitting all our shots and getting it into the post,” Hankins said. “In the second half, they stopped falling. (Ignacio) started hitting all their shots and we started hitting nothing.”
After quickly erasing the Bulldogs’ five-point lead with a 6-0 run that ended with a fast-break layup by Tucson, Ignacio continued to apply pressure and pulled away as McCaw drained consecutive 3-pointers midway through the quarter and Joe Garcia closed the quarter with a 3-pointer from the left corner to put his team ahead 47-36.
More 3-pointers by Tucson and McCaw, who each hit two during the fourth quarter, put Dove Creek in deeper hole and although the Bulldogs continued to fight during the final eight minutes, they were never able to pull closer than 14 points as Ignacio coasted to an easy victory.
With hits record now at 6-6 overall and 5-3 in the San Juan Basin League, Dove Creek will turn its attention to its final game of the regular season, at home against Dolores on March 6.
San Juan Basin League champion Ignacio will put its 11-2 overall record and 9-0 league record on the line at Telluride on March 6.