Sportsmanship and support abound in the San Juan Basin League.
Ignacio fans passing the well-known Cox Conoco in Mancos, en route to the girls' varsity game last Friday in Dove Creek, would have seen several MHS girls' and boys' basketball players braving the biting breeze to raise funds. They were selling shirts showing logos of four of the league's western teams for sophomore JV player Hayden Kocourek's fight against kidney failure.
Travelers could have bypassed the sight by remaining on U.S. 160. But inside DCHS Gymnasium, there was no avoiding the visual which completely superseded IHS' stellar shut-down showing-and had both rosters and respective rooters roaring until the final buzzer.
"They had one girl named Amber," Bobcat freshman forward Hilda Garcia said afterwards, of opposing sophomore Amber Pearson, a special-needs student-athlete who swished a six-footer in the closing minutes. It was only the Bulldogs' second field goal of the game, and said to be a personal first in competition.
"She was fantastic," Garcia stated. "Kind of lifted up our spirits, you know? Just warming our hearts!"
Which, defensively speaking, couldn't have been colder to their Dolores County hosts.
Preceding Pearson's basket, lone senior Ana Lee's hurried three-pointer with just 2:06 remaining in the fourth quarter was Dove Creek's first, and only other successful shot in a 58-21 loss.
Not to say Dove Creek didn't try; first-year head coach Angie Gatlin saw sophomore center/forward Desirhae Ketcherside rejected twice at very close range by Garcia during the final frame. Her squad also worked for 20 free-throw attempts and sank a surprising 16 of them. Their 80-percent success rate actually bettered Ignacio's 75 percent 9-of-12.
"We came at them tonight because last year Dove Creek beat us in our house," said Garcia, "and we just wanted to give it back to them. It was an overall.league win for us. When we'd see the ball coming we'd go for the steal. And if we saw the ball go up we'd go for the block; it was.quick, quick movement. It was a good, fun game tonight."
The Bobcats (7-3, 4-0 SJBL) began the game on an 8-0 run and finished the first quarter in control, 16-5. Ignacio then started the second on a 7-zip spree, pressing Gatlin into her first timeout, but the visitors' lead ballooned to 35-13 at halftime, and then to 49-14 ending the third quarter. The game ended at 58-21.
Garcia finished with a game-high 17 points and junior forward Ellie Seibel was close behind with 14. Senior point guard Sky Cotton totaled 10 and freshman guard Avionne Gomez, continuing her run of quality efforts off the bench, was 6-of-6 at the charity stripe and chipped in 15. Sophomore Tori Archuleta netted IHS' other two.
Now tied for second in the CHSAANow.com Class 2A rankings, Ignacio will seek their first "season sweep" of a foe tonight at Dolores.
"It's a good advantage," Garcia said of the team's seven-day hiatus. "Hopefully we give it to them."