LOVELAND-It had taken the Ignacio boys just one minute, 27 seconds to wipe out an imposing 25-15 first-half deficit against Ellicott in the previous day's consolation semifinal, en route to a season-extending victory.
So when Ault-based Highland went up 21-7 on the Bobcats early in the second quarter of the Class 2A State Championships' fifth-place game, the Huskies knew the real game on Saturday, March 10, was about to begin.
"We hadn't played them all season, so it was hard," said junior post player Koby Anderson. "They're different (than other league teams), have every kind of player on their team. We kind of knew what we were getting into, but we didn't really have matchups."
"Had to keep up a fight."
And though it took sixth-seeded IHS a little while longer to manufacture their expected rally, they did, and hacked #4 Highland's 14-point pad down to just four, 31-27, at halftime after two late baskets by senior Kai Roubideaux.
"We tried to get back in the game like yesterday, and we did," said senior guard Johnny Valdez. "We were in the position that we wanted to be in at halftime, for sure."
"We played better once we got into transition defense, which is good," he continued. "I think that they started getting frustrated and started missing shots; they started getting a little tired too, like we were, and we were able to take advantage of that because, I don't know; we're pretty good when we're tired sometimes!"
Valdez scored the fourth quarter's first five points, but 50-43 would be as close as the 'Cats would come to the canines in a 65-54 loss.
"Our kids played hard all weekend-and so did that team-but they were able to overcome it a little more," said IHS head coach Chris Valdez. "They were able to hit some jump shots and some free throws, got the big lead that we had to come back from, and we used a lot of energy just to come back. Kind of drained us by halftime."
"But we had some spirit because we made a comeback!" he noted. "And we brought it down to six or seven, went back and forth, and we just never could get two or three good ones in a row."
"We got a few bad bounces, honestly," Johnny Valdez said. "Some steals we probably should have got, we'd miss by a little bit and it ended in a layup. So it was unlucky, but we played our hearts out and I'm proud of what everybody's done."
In placing sixth and finishing the 2017-18 season 20-6 overall, Ignacio got a game-best 20 points from Johnny Valdez, with junior guard Lawrence Valdez (13) and Roubideaux (12) joining him in double figures. Sophomore forward Ocean Hunter contributed seven points and senior Cole McCaw two before fouling out with 1:36 remaining in his prep career.
Senior guard Trey Allmon booked a Highland-high 17 points and sophomore guard Tate Bessire 11 before he intentionally fouled out with 30.5 seconds left to allow a teammate to substitute in and actively experience the Budweiser Events Center atmosphere.
Ignacio vs. Ellicott
On Friday, IHS had a better game against Ellicott. Hleping IHS regain a 30-27 halftime lead which grew to 48-40 through three quarters against EHS, Roubideaux blew up for a game-high 21 points before fouling out with 1:17 left in regulation. He was joined by Johnny Valdez (15) and senior guard Kruz Pardo (11) in double figures as the Bobcats conquered, 63-53.
Lawrence Valdez managed seven points, McCaw recorded five and Hunter four, while senior big Jacob Tuufuli led the eliminated Thunderhawks with 16 points. Roubideaux and Johnny Valdez each shot three of Ignacio's eight three-pointers.
"That run that caught us up going into halftime changed it for us, and we came out knowing we could beat 'em and we got it into our heads what we had to do," said Chris Valdez. "Changed the whole dynamic of how we were playing."
"We just had to push the tempo, get a lot of shots," Roubideaux said. "We had to attack the defense especially.because they were playing zone. Attack the middle, and you had shooters wide-open on the outside. I think our speed got the edge on them."
"We knew it was going to be a tough game; they took a really bad loss yesterday and we knew they were better than that," said Johnny Valdez. "They might get a little lead on us, but we knew when to really strike: When they got tired. Their big guys got really tired on the bottom of that zone, and we were really able to take advantage of it. Kai took advantage of it wonderfully, just hit so many shots in the corner, or attacked the basket and got the ball to me, got the ball to Cole."
"Yesterday was really like we lost sight of our team, so resiliency was really important today."
Prior to facing 7-seed Ellicott on Day 2, the Bobcats had begun 'Great Eight' play with a 65-44 loss to #3 Byers which could have been much worse had BHS boss Jeremy Kerns not called off top Bulldog Austin Davis.
The 6'3" senior helped Byers bolt out to a 12-0 lead before Roubideaux got IHS going with a triple. After eight minutes, BHS held a commanding 25-12 advantage which grew to 43-27 at halftime.
The fourth quarter commenced with the 'Dogs cruising, 59-34.
"Byers was just too good for us, and credit to their size," said Chris Valdez. "Davis is the best player here, and there's nobody even close, I believe."
Roubideaux did his best to prove his own mettle, scoring a team-high 16 points. Hunter managed nine and McCaw six, but Lawrence Valdez was held to five points and Pardo four.
"I was never one of the kids that was like, 'I want to play Lakers basketball' or 'I want to play North Carolina basketball,'" reflected Johnny Valdez on his final state tourney. "I was always like, 'I want to play Ignacio basketball.' And all the seniors this year, we've come together, and this was our goal: To make it to the State tournament. The fact that we got a win is just icing on the cake."
Byers dropped a 58-54 battle with Yuma on Day 2 and could not recover in falling 51-44 to Meeker on Day 3 in the third-place clash, leaving the 'Dogs 20-6 overall. Yuma went on to finish 25-2 after defeating Ordway-based Crowley County 59-41 in the grand finale. It was the Chargers' first loss this season after 25 wins.