Even as the driving force during a devastating 34-0 scoring run which bloomed midway through the first quarter, Ignacio's Morgan Herrera knew she had to right a wrong.
Her steal from MHS junior guard Emily Cole, with 2:40 left before halftime, had been a little too forceful and she wasn't hesitant to let anyone nearby know it with an annoyed exclamation: "Oh, I put my arm out!"
"I was not even surprised," she laughed afterwards, recalling the foul. "I was like, 'Well, that's on me!'"
And despite IHS holding a 23-4 lead, a re-ignited Herrera proceeded to score consecutive baskets at the front of the Bobcats' press, took a feed from senior Avionne Gomez for another and a 30-4 advantage, then immediately helped repay her teammate by helping set up a Gomez three-pointer. 33-4.
Reserve guard Jayden Brunson then got into the act confidently canning a 17-foot jumper, and reserve forward/center Shelcie Gosney capped off the half with a free throw in the waning seconds. Jaime's transition hit from long range, following a Gomez free throw, made the score 41-7 and was the last of two field goals Ignacio allowed in a thorough 67-10 victory.
"We just pushed as hard as we could," Herrera said, "and played our defense as hard as we can do it."
"The starting five, started to get the same rhythm," she added, "and it just kept going on and on and on!"
Even when sophomore starting forward Larissa Gallegos exited the game early, returning to the floor after the game on crutches, the 'Cats didn't miss a beat. Gosney (11 points) and senior Allisianna Baker were able to operate near the hoop offensively, and able to help bottle up MHS freshman interior threat Madi Hale defensively.
"We really had to step up a lot from what Coach (Trae Seibel) wanted us to do," said Baker, who totaled nine points and scored in each quarter. "He got mad at us at first - yelled at us for not boxing out, not playing our roles as good as we can. He really had a lot of faith in us to finish, and I think we played really good."
The 'finish' came in the form of a 9-0 fourth quarter played under CHSAA's new mercy-rule, running-clock format.IHS' starters proudly sat the bench and observed the second unit's work. The start of the game, however, couldn't have been better for the hard-luck Jays (0-7, 0-3 2A/1A San Juan Basin) if affable skipper Cory Cole had planned it himself.
Mancos won the opening tip, and quickly managed two Cole free throws in four tries.
Not included in the starting lineup, Herrera quickly went to work, logging two tying FTs with 6:51 left in the first quarter - the first two of what ended up being a game-high 19 points - and after Cole sank a mid-range jumper to bring MHS back to 7-4, the 'Cats (5-0, 3-0 SJBL) decided that was close enough.
Herrera's early steal and basket preceded a jumper by sophomore Makayla Howell and a Gomez 15-footer, putting Ignacio up 13-4 through the initial eight minutes.
"We need to get more in shape," quipped Herrera, "but we're doing good at this point. I think we can do better, but the team's coming together."
"We need to build on our cardio," agreed Baker, "to play Bayfield and everyone else, keep up with them."
"Overall, we're playing pretty good," Baker said. "We haven't peaked yet though, so once we peak we're going to be really good!"