Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
The Ignacio High School boys basketball team won every quarter but the fourth.
And that was plenty.
The Bobcats beat Paonia 66-49 on Friday night to easily advance to the Class 2A Region 3 title game, where a win will land them in the CHSAA Class 2A Boys State Championships’ elite eight.
Credit Paonia’s Ben Linnell for the final-frame margin compression at Durango High School.
Linnell scored half of the Ealges’ fourth-quarter points, but that wasn’t unusual – his 25 points led all scorers and made up more than half of Paonia’s total.
In fact, his beyond-the-arc jumper was about the only thing the Bobcats couldn’t stop Friday. Linnell scored 18 of his points from 3-point range.
“I don’t usually jump very high on my 3s, and I was doing that (Friday),” Linnell said. “And they went in.”
“Very high” doesn’t really do Linnell’s hops justice. He practically jumped over the IHS defense, once the Bobcats figured out they needed to keep him covered.
“You don’t meet a lot of kids who jump out the gym and shoot the ball down at the rim,” IHS head coach Chris Valdez said.
But the Eagles didn’t get much else against Ignacio’s rugged post defense, which Valdez credited for his team’s rout.
Justin Carver, Adison Jones, Austin Haire and Kelton Richmond played the rotating door down low, getting pushy with the Eagles’ big men and shutting down their inside-out game.
In the first quarter, Paonia didn’t score a single point from the paint.
“We played with good intensity,” Wyatt Hayes said.
“Defense was the whole key,” Adison Jones said. “We forced them into some turnovers.”
Maybe not the whole key: The Bobcats scored plenty of points, too.
Paonia had no answer for the versatile Jones, who had defenders popping up all over the place down low, then had them staring when he launched from beyond the 3-point line.
Jones finished with a team-high 16 points, including three 3s after halftime.
“First half, just getting used to the gym, and then the second half, I just came on,” he said.
Richmond “busted the board for a dozen” more, as Valdez explained Richmond’s propensity to use the glass down low, and Carver added 12, too.
Clayton Jefferson went 6-for-6 from the foul line and finished with nine points.
“Inside-out (play), hit some 3 pointers, try to get some post-ups,” Valdez said. “A little bit of everything.”
The Bobcats leapt to a quick 14-4 lead in the first quarter, spurred by Hayes’ 3-pointer to open scoring.
And that 3-0 score was as close as Paonia ever would get to Ignacio.
By halftime, Ignacio led 32-16, and the Bobcats rode Jones’ big third quarter to a 20-point lead after three quarters.
“We just weren’t hustling on defense,” Linnell said.
The Bobcats (19-5) will play Lutheran (17-5), who beat Sargent 68-24 in the other semifinal.
The regional championship game will be played at 2:30 p.m. today at DHS.