Having started their Senior Day game with consecutive baskets, it was only fitting that Bayfield's two seniors, Tiarra Christensen and Cinnamon Varnell, would sew it up with points from the foul line in crunch time.
Turns out the Wolverines needed those three free throws (Varnell two, Christensen one) last Saturday afternoon maybe a little more than they'd have figured to finally put Montezuma-Cortez down for good.
Because in a manner eerily similar to their late-game, home-court collapse against Alamosa back on Jan. 20, BHS' 32-18 advantage through three quarters (they'd rallied to go up 28-24 through three against AHS) against the Panthers nearly crumbled as well. With M-CHS ultimately winning the second half 27-16, Bayfield found themselves minus a key cog for the final 2:45 when junior Jordan Lanning fouled out.
Montezuma-Cortez sophomore Presley Frost promptly canned a three-pointer, bringing the visitors back to 40-31 with both time and fouls to give. But in the final frame, leading scorer Dimery Plewe fouled out with 42.2 seconds left, while Christensen finished 2-for-4 and Varnell 3-of-4 from the charity stripe to secure a 43-33 win and split of the teams' season series. Cortez won 49-34 at home on Jan. 27.
Christensen and Lanning each finished with a game-best 1- points and Varnell, new to the crew this year after moving in from the Portales, N.M., area, was right behind with nine. Junior Tymbree Florian buried two first-half three-pointers, helping Bayfield (6-12, 3-6 3A Intermountain) pile up leads of 13-2 after one quarter and 27-6 through two, and finished with seven points.
"We came out and played really hard on the defensive end," said head coach Josh Kitchen, "and didn't give them many open threes or second-chance points, and I think that's what helped us get out to the lead."
Plewe paced the Panthers (4-15, 2-8) with eight points. At the free-throw line, Montezuma-Cortez finished 6-of-17 while BHS ended up 9-of-24.
Assured of fourth place in league, the Wolverines will finish regular-season work on Thursday, Feb. 15, with a rematch against third-place Alamosa (11-7, 5-4) out in the San Luis Valley. M-CHS finished fifth in the IML, ahead of Monte Vista's 1-9 mark.