Survivor's rock classic "Eye Of The Tiger" blared from BHS Gymnasium's sound system as warm-ups began winding down. The hosting Wolverines' senior center Roukema was seen briefly mouthing part of the song's chorus. She was gearing up at one end and regional neighbors Ignacio were at the other.
Bobcat freshman forward Hilda Garcia showed the eye first, however, landed Tuesday evening's first haymaker. It was a three-pointer with 5:35 left in the first quarter to get the game's scoring started.
She'd later also connect on its last-a trey with 5:09 left in the fourth-en route to a undisputed 49-24 victory in the squads' annual clash for Pine River Valley basketball supremacy.
"It was great to see them come out in such a super-charged environment," said IHS Head Coach Shane Seibel, reflecting on the non-league rivalry game's near-capacity attendance. "Treat it just like a regular game, and enjoy the moment. Play for your seniors because this was the last time they get to play Bayfield. That brought an emotional part to us, and I think it really sparked Sky to have a really solid game for us; I was really happy."
Because other than Garcia, probably no player on either team was as ready to rumble as Sky Cotton.
Hustling non-stop in both directions and crucial to denying BHS' Maddy Duran, Aspen Pinnecoose and Andrea Zelinski as many looks as possible, Ignacio's senior point guard made her biggest impact with hardly a sound. Some facial expressions questioned whether the shot was successful, or air-balled completely.
Roukema had booked Bayfield's first points with 3:29 left in the first, only to see Garcia respond in kind for a 9-2 Bobcat lead. Setting her feet in front of the BHS student section, Cotton then fired up a three that splashed down softer than an Olympic gold medalist off the high dive. The net barely rippled.
Her second three-pointer-hoisted high from the same left-wing location-actually made an audible "swish." But more importantly it extended the visitors' second-quarter-starting scoring run to 15-1, building the Bobcats' pad to a comfortable 27-7 with just 2:51 remaining before halftime.
"The crowd.we shut that out and played our game," Cotton said. "That's all we could really do."
"When I first went in I was excited, I was pumped up," she conceded. "I was just ready to go and I knew that if I started energizing my team.we would just attack them and attack them."
Two Garcia free throws gave Ignacio a 31-9 advantage at intermission. Although Bayfield actually won the third quarter, 10 points to eight, they got no closer than the 39-19 deficit facing them as the fourth commenced.
"We had four or five possessions in a row that weren't very good," Seibel admitted, regarding the Wolverines' brief rally. "But the girls are learning every single game, and I'm seeing their growth. That's what it's all about, them getting better in every little aspect."
"They're a good team, but our defense got solid," said Cotton. "It just came out big for us today."
Garcia finished with a game-best 18 points and Cotton totaled 12, and the duo shot all five of the battle's three-pointers. Junior forward Ellie Seibel chipped in nine points and freshman guard Avionne Gomez five.
IHS sophomore reserve guard Tori Archuleta ended the game by making a free throw awarded IHS after BHS Coach Bri Simbeck incurred a technical foul calling a timeout she didn't have.
Foul-line accuracy could have helped Bayfield immensely. The Wolverines finished just 8-of-28, while the 'Cats were 10-15. Roukema led the locals with 13 points, but was just 3-10 at the stripe. Zelinski (2-7 FT) scored six, Duran and junior forward Emily Peinado each had two and Pinnecoose just one.
Ignacio is knocking harder and harder on the door of the CHSAANow.com Class 2A Top 10. But this week the girls were still left on the outside as a high 'Receiving Votes' team. Ignacio (12-3, 8-0 2A/1A San Juan Basin League) will host Ridgway (11-4, 9-2) this evening before going to Nucla (10-5, 6-4) tomorrow for a Valentine's Day battle.
The Wolverines (0-15, 0-6 3A Intermountain) are still trying to salvage something from a four-game home portion of their schedule. They host Monte Vista (8-8, 3-4) this evening then head to Montezuma-Cortez tomorrow.
In their first season as an IML member, the M-C Panthers stood 6-10, 2-6 before this evening's visit from #2-ranked Pagosa Springs (15-0, 6-0.) Pagosa downed 2A's #10 Del Norte by 15 points Monday night at home.