It’s been so long since the Ignacio High School boys basketball team didn’t qualify for the Class 2A or 3A regional tournament that head coach Chris Valdez can hardly remember it.
The Bobcats have been in two classifications and two separate leagues, and on Sunday, it was the first time since the 2004 season, and second since 2000-2001 – Valdez’s first season in charge – that Ignacio will not advance beyond the district tournament.
Ignacio lost 60-56 to Telluride in the consolation third-place game of the Class 2A San Juan Basin League District 3 tournament and were denied a postseason berth in the process. Only the top three teams qualify for regionals.
“We haven’t seen that in years, and we’ve been to regional championships for at least the last 12 or 13 years,” Valdez said. “The first couple, we didn’t win district championships, but we still made regionals. This is a young team, and I thought they overachieved, when you look at it. Ocean (Hunter) missed five games, Brady McCaw missed four down the stretch. ... All of those games could have been won, put us in a different mindset, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to look back and look at what you accomplished with a team that nobody thought would win five games.
“Ocean was the only one that returned from last year that saw floor time in the regional or state tournament. I was proud of the their effort, but ultimately, we came up short.”
The Bobcats were unable to overcome a gritty Telluride (13-9) team that had the Bobcats on the ropes the other two times they played during the regular season. Ignacio held a 12-9 lead in the first moments of the second quarter and never regained the lead.
Ignacio (10-10) fought back from another fourth quarter deficit after it was down as many as 12 last night against Dolores and on Sunday, it was a seven-point Miner lead with 6:06 remaining in the game. Ignacio looked to its usual suspects, Bryce Finn, Triston Thompson and Ocean Hunter for answers, and they each delivered.
Thompson tied the game at 46 with 39 seconds remaining. However, the Bobcats would not be able to hold on to the lead. The ensuing Miner possession, the Miners made 2-of-2 from the charity stripe and took a two-point lead. Ignacio had three consecutive possessions to tie the game, but all three resulted in turnovers. Two of which came out of a timeout, and the third was stolen away. The Miners capitalized and made the game-clinching free throws to steal third-place away from the Bobcats.
“We played ourselves into the playoffs, we really did,” said Miners head coach Ryan Patrick. “It was a good grind, and when we went to the press there in the second quarter, we got some steals and we took the lead heading into halftime. I told them that we needed to just keep on working on keeping the lead for the rest of the game, and that was the turning point. It was a whirlwind, but we did just enough to hold on. We’ve probably had seven or eight games that have come down to the final possession, and we’ve either held on, or we haven’t. This isn’t anything new for us, and I think those close games throughout the year prepared us for today.”
Finn led the Bobcats with 18 points, while Thompson had 14 and Hunter had four. Robert Cooney had a game-high 19 points for the Miners, while Kaden Katz had 10 and Charlie Miller had eight.
The Miners will find out their first-round opponent when the 2A bracket is released on Monday.