Through 10 games this season, no team has been able to slow down the Ignacio High School girls basketball team. The Bobcats have a lot of weapons with girls who can do a lot. They have scorers, rebounders, defenders, ball handers and passers. But they only have one Allisianna Baker-Marquez.
"What Alli B brings every day to this gym is just her character. She's outgoing, she's funny, she's just someone to laugh with, and we need that energy," Bobcats head coach Trae Seibel said. "When you add that with her skill and her ability to play this game, it brings a great culture.
"She brings that energy that keeps the girls happy and flowing. Don't take it so personal and serious. Basketball is really small in life and we're here to do our best and let bygones be bygones. She really puts that in perspective for a lot of the girls."
If anyone on the Bobcats' roster understands the ups and downs of basketball and how quickly they can swing, it's Baker-Marquez, who has come back from two major knee injuries during her high school career.
Baker-Marquez saw her freshman season end when she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. She worked her way back for her sophomore season, and as a junior, she was ready to take charge with a spot in the starting rotation and a captain's role on the team. But in the second quarter of the first game of the season, the repaired knee gave out and her season was taken away when the ACL ripped apart again.
When the injury happened her freshman year, it was tough, but there were three more years of high school left to come back and get ready for. When it happened for a second time, the anguish was consuming.
"It was really depressing," Baker-Marquez said. "I was down so many times and didn't think I could ever make it back up, but I had a lot of support from my friends and family.
"I pushed myself even harder. I'd work out and work on my knee and kept practicing. It was really hard, probably one of the hardest things I've ever gone through in my life, both mentally and physically, but I overcame it and I know I can be better so I keep pushing myself."
Now, Baker-Marquez is back and playing without injury. She jokes about her knee and makes light of the serious injuries she has faced, even though she knows the detours they had on her high school career were long and draining.
This season, Baker-Marquez has come off the bench for the Bobcats, and, in limited minutes, she has averaged close to nine points a game - a testament to the work she has put in to get back on the floor.
"She's a great example for the other girls coming off the bench because it's tough for a senior to come off the bench, but she understands her role and her expectations," Seibel said. "For her to be mature about it and be emotionally intelligent about it is awesome, and it's a great example for the other girls to see if you do your position to the best of your ability, you'll find your way on this team."
The Bobcats are 10-0 overall and 6-0 in the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League and are ranked eighth in the Colorado High School Activities Associations' coaches poll for Class 2A. And their 10-0 record doesn't do their dominant season justice - the closest game so far was an 18-point victory at Dolores.
Barring injury, the biggest challenge the Bobcats might face during the regular season could be themselves. Confidence does wonders for a team, but, when the Bobcats are blasting teams out of the gym at halftime on a regular basis, overconfidence could set in.
"Some people, not everyone, can get a little big headed and think they don't have to work anymore," Baker-Marquez said. "The seniors, me, Avionne (Gomez) and Sidney (Cox), we always tell them to stay level. Don't get too high or too low, be content. Yeah, we can be really good, but there's always a time when you fail. You have to learn from that and pick yourself up, because you can't be on top all the time."
Right now, the Bobcats are on top and have shown no signs of coming down. Seibel said that to the best of his knowledge, the 10-0 start is one of the best, if not the best, starts to a season in the program's history. The team has the skill and potential to make a run at the state tournament, an experience that would put the pain and suffering of two torn ACLs worth it if Baker-Marquez can share in the joy with her team.
"All the other years, I never thought I'd be a part of that because of the injuries," she said of a potential state tournament run. "Putting trust in my knee has been really hard. Being able to know that all my work paid off would feel so amazing."