Fighting a superior opponent successfully to control three offensive rebounds on a single possession with the clock ticking down the first half's last minute, Bayfield displayed the sort of resolve which Josh Kitchen can't relish enough. The hard-fought play ultimately yielded a two-point jumper by freshman Halle Loveday.
"You can't coach heart, really," he beamed afterwards. "Either you have it or you don't, and I had some girls who really gave everything they had - puking in the bathroom, that kind of thing - with all that work. I can't be more proud of that."
Unfortunately, the Wolverines' early-game exploits expended energy at too fast a rate, all but dictated to them right off the Morgan Herrera-won opening tip by unbeaten Ignacio. Ranked #8 in the first CHSAANow.com Class 2A poll of 2018, the Bobcats' full-court pressure defense paid dividends and largely led to a 17-2 lead with 1:58 still left in the first quarter, following reserve guard Jayden Brunson's 15-footer.
With nobody choosing to check her, BHS junior guard Tymbree Florian drained a straightaway, optimistic three-pointer from about five feet behind the arc as time expired, but in still trailing 21-7, the visitors to IHS Gymnasium faced an uphill climb too steep to summit.
Following three free throws in four tries, IHS senior guard Avionne Gomez nailed her first three of the Pine River Rivalry game early in the second quarter, Freshman forward Shelcie Gosney flipped in a deuce from beneath the rim to stretch the lead to 29-8, and Brunson knocked down another jumper before Bayfield burned off what remained of their initial fuel supply.
And after halftime, which commenced with the scoreboard showing 31-14, Ignacio's recharged starting five quickly put the contest well out of the guests' grasp. Herrera picked up her third personal foul early in the third quarter, a small victory for the Wolverines. IHS responded with a Gomez trey, a Gomez steal-and-layup, and a Herrera swipe-and-score all within a 12-second blur.
After Kitchen called a timeout with 6:31 left, BHS failed to generate offense and Herrera then cashed two free throws after drawing a foul on Cinnamon Varnell at the other end. Their advantage increased to 40-16 at that moment, the Cats went into the final frame up 53-21 and cruised to a 66-23, mercy rule-hastened win.
"We're taking this season game by game, and focusing on being in the moment right now," IHS head coach Trae Seibel said. "We came out wanting to really see what the girls have got. And the girls came to play tonight."
"Right now I'm giving the girls the keys to this team," he continued. If I want to win more than them, we're not going very far. If they want to win more than me, then I think we've got a fighting chance to do something this season."
Hitting nine of her 10 tries from the foul line, Herrera totaled a game-best 19 points. Helped by 5-of-6 FT accuracy, Gomez booked 15 and sophomore forward Larissa Gallegos also reached double figures with 10 points. And after Gosney scored six of her seven points before intermission, senior Allisianna Baker netted all her eight points during the second half.
"I put it on these ladies during the Christmas break to understand that we've got some girls who can play, I think, at a very high level," Seibel said. "So we've just got to work our butts off every single day; we're blessed to come into this gym."
Varnell and freshman Madison Wells each managed five points and senior Tiarra Christensen recorded four for Bayfield, but Florian and junior center/forward Jordan Lanning were each held to only three.
"The loss is on me," Kitchen said. "I've got to figure out ways to give the girls the best chance to win. But the heart that they showed tonight...I wish the scoreboard would have reflected that."
"Kudos to Ignacio; they were well-coached, they played well, and it was impressive. I wish them the best, the rest of the season. They're our rivals, but I have a lot of respect for what they do down here."
The Wolverines (2-6 overall) will undoubtedly see more of it when they travel next to La Jara this Friday, Jan. 12, to begin Intermountain League play at Centauri-top-ranked in Class 3A and unbeaten at 9-0.
"I'm excited for the challenge, and I'm excited that now we're in the 'real' season," said Kitchen. "This is when it really starts to count; hopefully we can surprise the league a little bit!"
"Centauri's obviously a quality team too," he added. "So it's going to be a tough game for us, no doubt; we're going to have to show up and really play our best to challenge them."
Ignacio (6-0, 3-0 2A/1A San Juan Basin), meanwhile, will resume their respective league work on the Jan. 12 by hosting struggling Ridgway. aught in a rebuilding year for the proud program, the Demons will come to town standing 0-7 overall, 0-1 SJBL after losing 47-9 on Tuesday to area rival Ouray.
"We're staying humble, we're staying driven," said Seibel. "It's a great win against Bayfield but we're moving on, looking forward! Ridgway might be a longtime rival of ours, but the way that I'm putting it to these girls is that, I want them to just be level-headed, and honor the game, honor their opponent."