One player could stand in the way of the Ignacio High School basketball team from the Colorado High School Activities Association’s Class 2A playoffs. In the process, Dolores High School’s Tristen Swagerty might help his team get into the postseason.
The senior forward scored a game-high 20 points that helped lift the Bears (11-9, 6-6 2A/1A San Juan Basin League) past IHS in the semifinals of the 2A San Juan Basin League District 3 tournament in a thrilling 62-60 win in overtime Saturday night at Durango High School.
It was the third time this season Swagerty torched Ignacio (10-9, 9-2 SJBL), as he scored 36 points in a December win at IHS and another 22 in January at Dolores.
“Usually, they ran man-to-man, and that’s what they ran the first two games, and they had a zone this time, and we were able to score on it,” said IHS head coach Chris Valdez. “Our problem was, we can’t stop them from scoring. We have absolutely no answer for Swagerty. None. We don’t have anybody who can guard him. He’s scored almost half of their points, and we still can’t stop him, I mean, we’re just horrible man-to-man defenders, and I attribute that to my lack of teaching them, honestly. I told them in the locker room that, ‘You’re still a year away from winning the district championship.’ We just don’t expect to lose, and while we played our hearts out, we didn’t play good early.”
While Swagerty was one storyline, the other was Ignacio’s comeback.
The Bobcats were down as much as 12 points in the fourth quarter after a sluggish third in which they scored just four points. But IHS stormed back. Bryce Finn made it a six-point game with 2:45 remaining, and the comeback was on. IHS went on a 10-4 run to tie the game and even briefly took the lead. Junior guard Keegan Schurman hit a 3-pointer and was fouled in the act of shooting. He made the ensuing free throw to give Ignacio its first lead since it was 6-4 when Brady McCaw gave the Bobcats an early lead.
Dolores came down to re-take the lead, and, on the other end, Schurman came up clutch again. After a shot fell short, the Bears tried to push for a fastbreak, but Schurman leaped in front of the pass, stole it and was fouled with nine seconds remaining. He made 1-of-2 at the foul line to tie the game. He missed the second, which would have given the Bobcats a lead, but they got the rebound. IHS had one final shot to win it in regulation, but Finn’s 3-pointer rimmed out.
In the extra period, Swagerty made the first point, and his younger brother Will would finish it off. He made both free-throws in a three-point game, and it ended up being the difference, as Ignacio’s Finn made a 3 at the buzzer.
“First of all, Ignacio has been the best team in this league for the last decade-plus,” said Dolores head coach Larry Schwartz. “Our kids have been resilient down the stretch late in games, and tonight it just all came together. Both Tristen and Will were big for us tonight.”
Ignacio was led by Finn’s 16, while McCaw had 13 in his first game back in four games. Dakota Smith had 15 for the Bears, while the younger Swagerty had nine.
The Bobcats will play the No. 4 seed Telluride for the third-place game at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday at Durango High School. Dolores will play Mancos for the league title after it kept the Bobcats out of a highly-anticipated grudge match with the Bluejays.