It wasn't that Dove Creek's Ryan Martinez was looking for an Ignacio player to emulate.
But when the visiting Bulldogs needed it late in their Tuesday trip to IHS Gymnasium, the senior copied Bobcat freshman Gabe Tucson about as accurately as could be asked, and enjoyed similar energizing results.
Unfortunately for Dove Creek, Tucson's three three-pointers and 13 points during the second quarter had expanded IHS' already-dominant 15-2 first-quarter lead to an overwhelming 37-16 at halftime. Despite Martinez netting 12 fourth-quarter points and 21 of his game-best 26 after intermission, the 'Dogs couldn't catch the 'Cats and fell 73-55.
"We were in control the whole time, I thought," said Ignacio head coach Chris Valdez. "And then for four minutes we decided one-on-one basketball was better than team basketball, honestly. We took about eight or nine threes in that point- Ocean made one out of all that - and all those possessions were one-pass, two-pass and then a shot. No offense."
"We were in no rhythm, nowhere to be rebounding, because we weren't in any kind of offense. Then their guy gets hot, starts hitting threes, and we stay five feet off of him? Little things like that."
Junior forward Ocean Hunter's aforementioned triple was Ignacio's lone long-range make during the second half. That fortunately interrupted the Bulldogs' fourth-quarter comeback. Dove Creek (2-5, 0-2 2A/1A San Juan Basin) had started the stanza scoring nine unanswered points, and had outscored IHS 15-6 in its first 3:33. That was enough to stave off catastrophe, and the teams closed out the contest swapping points almost evenly.
Valdez was able to put an all-reserve quintet of Jawadin Corona, Johnathon Whitt, Cameron Doyebi, Ian Weinreich and Jonas Nanaeto on the floor for the final minute or so, and had intended to give the group more time if not for IHS' late-game lapse and damage done by Martinez, Gauge Thompson (13 points) and Ty Smith (11).
"We could have got those other guys in the game for five minutes apiece, if we could have played better defensively, if we could have been smarter offensively," said Valdez. "You've got to work hard so your guys who come to practice every day can get in the basketball game. Winning a game, that's important too," he noted, "but we've got to be smarter."
Sophomore forward Dylan Labarthe led four Bobcats in double figures with his 14 points. ucson finished with his game-breaking 13, Hunter recorded 11 and sophomore forward/center Bryce Finn contributed 10, including a stabilizing six during the fourth quarter as Ignacio improved to 2-4 overall, 1-1 in the SJBL.
Sophomore guard Triston Thompson added nine points, sophomore guard Brady McCaw and junior guard Keegan Schurman each scored six, and senior forward Randall Doyebi four.
"Dylan...he finished today, and that's what he hasn't been doing," said Valdez, no doubt recalling preceding home losses to 4A Kirtland Central (79-39 on Dec. 13) and 3A Cedaredge (58-46 on Dec. 15).
"With Ocean there it does give him confidence because now the focus is on Ocean. The focus is on Brady, the focus is on Bryce, and those other guys like Keegan and Gabe and Dylan-who are like our fourth, fifth and sixth options-are.getting guarded by a third, fourth or fifth guy."
"They're still good ballplayers," he emphasized, "so it gives them an even matchup, where they can actually compete. It really helps to have someone like (Hunter) who's going to take the focus away from them."