Desperate times don't always call for desperate measures.
Dove Creek guard Grace Hatfield now knows that concept.
After almost singlehandedly keeping the visiting Bulldogs in the building during the first half Tuesday evening, her needless foul on Ignacio's Charlize Valdez - with no time left in the second quarter, and Dove Creek having fought back from 15-5 down to 23-19 - allowed Valdez to sink two of three free throws. That gave IHS a major morale boost and reinforced the lead which wouldn't be threatened again in a 59-37 victory.
"We definitely started out very slow, I mean, we were just not awake yet," said head coach Justa Whitt. DCHS had initially led until junior forward Makayla Howell's two FTs with 3:52 left in the first quarter at last put IHS up 6-4. "But after halftime - we kind of 'had a little talk' in the locker room - we woke up a bit. They were not totally on their game tonight, but at least it was enough to get the job done when we needed to."
The visitors still appeared to have some energy when freshman post Laurel Hankins somehow banked in a straight-on three-pointer, offsetting Bobcat sophomore guard Ebonee Gomez's two-point jumper early in the third quarter. That brought Dove Creek back to 27-22.
But Ignacio sophomore guard Jayden Brunson coldly replied with her first of three treys in the quarter, and Howell followed with a basket after stealing the inbounds pass. Freshman guard Avaleena Nanaeto did likewise, and added a bonus free throw after being fouled by Shania Kibel, rebuilding IHS' advantage to 35-22.
DCHS called a timeout with 4:33 left, but the 'Cats (3-3, 2-0 2A/1A San Juan Basin) were just getting started. Brunson buried another three, then Ignacio denied Dove Creek an inbounds pass, forcing a five-second stall call.
IHS' full-court man-to-man defense then refused to allow the Bulldogs (4-4, 1-1) to cross midcourt the next time they managed to inbound and the home team cruised into the fourth up 45-25.
Still willing to battle, even though the proverbial writing was more or less on IHS Gymnasium's walls, Dove Creek began the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run, but gave up a crucial three to 'Cat senior guard Kiana Valdez. The visitors also lost point guard Kobie Beanland to fouls with 4:25 remaining.
Howell cashed a late triple, giving her an impressive 19 points (including 6-of-6 work from the charity stripe). Senior reserve Reyna Cruz wrapped up the scoring with a putback in the waning moments.
Brunson totaled four three-pointers and 14 points, while Gomez netted six points and Nanaeto five. Sophomore center Shelcie Gosney booked four, icnluding Ignacio's first points of the game, as did Charlize Valdez, whose foul-line miss ending the first half was the girls' lone misfire. Hatfield led Dove Creek with 16 points - nine during the second quarter - and Hankins logged nine.
"The free throws saved us; we were 17-for-18 from the line, and that's unheard of for us!" Whitt declared. "I'm hoping we can keep on that roll; it could have broke us tonight if we hadn't done that."
Whitt noted this game was the end of the girls' first half of the season.
"Coming off of two hard games, losses, I definitely think we could have come out harder today, but it's OK, we're at the end of our little stint here," she said. "We get a little break, and hopefully we'll have some time to rest up and come back ready to really hit it."
Ignacio had previously lost 53-23 at 4A Kirtland Central on Dec. 14, then 50-37 at home to 3A Cedaredge the next afternoon.