MANCOS – The Ignacio High School boys basketball team overcame its ultimate adversary from the last two seasons to punch a ticket back to the Great 8 of the state tournament.
The Bobcats (18-4) took down Mancos High School 58-50 in the Class 2A Region 4 championship game Saturday in Mancos behind a special fourth-quarter performance from junior point guard Brady McCaw.
McCaw had a game-high 24 points to lead the Bobcats. He made four 3-pointers in the game and caught fire in the second half. Keegan Schurman added 12 points, and Ocean Hunter added six.
“It was pure heart today,” said Ignacio head coach Chris Valdez. “The people who wanted the ball had it in their hands. Brady McCaw didn’t want to let it go and wanted to be the guy on the line. He was incredible at the free-throw line, and that’s a leader.”
Mancos (19-4) was led by senior Caden Showlater with 17 points, while his brother Connor added 11.
It was the fourth time the teams played each other this season. Mancos had won the Class 2A District 3 championship 54-50 last weekend at Montezuma-Cortez High School, and that gave the Bluejays the right to host a regional while the Bobcats had to go on the road. But the ttwo teams were placed in the same regional, and that gave the Bobcats the chance to win the biggest matchup of all between the two teams the last two seasons.
After not even qualifying for the regional tournament last season, McCaw and the Bobcats were determined to make their return to Loveland’s Budweiser Events Center to play in the upcoming Colorado High School Activities Association Class 2A Great 8 state tournament.
McCaw made hit happen with 16 of his team’s 21 fourth-quarter points.
“It was super special,” McCaw said. “All we wanted to do was to get our seniors to state, and it’s a great feeling.”
Ignacio got out to an early 8-2 lead thanks to a pair of 3-pointers. The Bluejays responded with an 8-0 run, and the game was tied 12-12 after one quarter.
Ignacio hit back-to-back 3-ponters, as Bird Red and Schurman each connected from beyond the arc to start the second quarter. The Bluejays continued to feed Caden Showalter down low, as he scored nine first-half points to lead the Bluejays. The Bobcats would take a 24-23 lead into the locker room.
Mancos went on a 5-0 run to take a 28-24 lead early in the third quarter. The Bobcats responded through McCaw, who aggressively attacked the basket. He went 5-of-5 in the at the free-throw line, which included three makes after he was fouled from behind the 3-point stripe. Gabe Tucson ended the quarter strong offensive rebound and putback layup that beat the buzzer that the Bobcats a 37-35 lead heading into the fourth.
In the final quarter, McCaw banked in his first 3-pointer of the second half. He would score 16 out of the Bobcats’ 21 fourth-quarter points. It included 3-of-5 from the foul line, where Ignacio finished 8-of-11 in the second half.
The Bluejays tried to mount a response through the Showalters, but good looks did not go down. Connor Showlater made it 47-44 with 4:21 left after a 3-pointer, only to be outdone by McCaw, who drained yet another 3.
IHS was able to close the game through its defense, as the Bobcats forced three turnovers in the final 90 seconds.
“We stopped putting our hands up for some reason, and that was not a change that I made,” said Mancos head coach Elijah Knepper. “Ignacio is the best shooting team in the class. If you leave someone open for 32 minutes, eventually they’re going to make some shots, and they hit them all at the very end.”
Knepper was proud of his team’s fight and believes Mancos basketball will be talented for years to come. He thanked Caden Showalter, who ended his career as the school’s all-time leading scorer, rebounder and the state record holder for career double-doubles.
“If you can have a program-changing individual, he is it,” Knepper said. “And to inherit this group for my first two years, I couldn’t be more proud. We reached the Great 8 last season. We came within a quarter of returning this year. We’re going to be hungry again next season.”
Ignacio will find out its seed when the Class 2A Great 8 bracket is released on Sunday.
Beating Mancos will give the Bobcats all the momentum needed going into the state quarterfinals Thursday.
“Coach was telling us what gym we were going to practice in this Monday, because we knew we were going to get past this,” said Ignacio’s Bryce Finn, who had a quiet two points but has been the emotional leader for IHS this season. “That was our mantra all week, and we’re so excited to keep practicing.”