‘We wanted it,’ so the ’Cats took it

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald

Jordan Cuthair and Ignacio High School are one win away from reaching the Class 2A Elite Eight for the first time in a decade.

By Jim Sojourner Herald staff writer

Mariah Vigil’s buzzer beater couldn’t have mattered much less.

It couldn’t have mattered much more, either.

Up on Sanford by eight points, Vigil got a long pass with just enough time to lay one up for the 57-47 final margin in a game that already was well in hand.

That the game was Round 1 of the Class 2A Region 3 tournament with its single-elimination rule made the buzzer-beater matter a little bit more. That it also capped a win that put the Bobcats into the regional championship game with a CHSAA Class 2A Girls Basketball State Championships tournament berth on the line fulfilled its worthiness.

“We wanted it,” Sky Cotton said.

The extent of the Bobcats’ desire looked in question for the first quarter, in which they tried to give away the game at Durango High School.

Literally.

Ignacio gave Sanford the ball 10 times on turnovers in the first eight minutes, most of them in the first four minutes, including its first three possessions in a row.

“Our emotions and our excitement got a hold of us,” Valerie Armstrong said of the slew of turnovers.

The Bobcats trailed by as much as 8-4 before finishing the quarter down 13-12.

But after the Bobcats “talked about it ... if you want to call it that,” as coach Justa Whitt dubbed the halftime chat, the Ignacio girls came out with a different attitude.

It wasn’t a pleasant team conference, but it had a pleasant result for IHS.

“In the second quarter we woke up and got back to our game,” Cotton said.

To anyone who’s seen Ignacio play, it was a familiar game: Defense, defense and fast-break layups spiced up with intermittent 3-pointers.

From the point guard position, Michelle Simmons directed the action, tallying 16 points on her bounding drives down low. The senior added six assists.

And those assists were crucial against the much taller Indians who racked up their fair share of blocks.

“Their size definitely had us overpowered,” Whitt said.

“It was a struggle, but we’d drive in and kick it out,” Cotton said.

She liked that kick-out, too. Cotton scored 12 points, half of them on 3s.

“I try to make all my shots for my team,” she said. “Get us going, get our confidence up and keep us rolling.”

It rubbed off. Gabs Garcia scored eight, including one 3, before she had to hurry out of the gymnasium to make it to a Catholic Catechism retreat, and she was one of six Ignacio girls who scored Friday.

“I like that statline, where it’s pretty even across the board,” Whitt said. “That’s what I told the girls: Everyone has to contribute.”

The Bobcats scored 15 points from beyond the arc on the night, 12 of them before intermission to lead 27-20 at halftime.

But Sanford’s size gave the Indians an offensive advantage, too, and they’d use it to make a run at the lead in the final two quarters.

The Bobcats pulled ahead by as many as 11 in the opening minutes of the second half, but the Indians leaned on their post size to go on an 8-0 run and pull within three points at 31-28.

Kelli Canty scored four of them en route to a team-high-tying 12, Bailee Canty scored two on the way to 12, too, and Jaycee Canty scored the other basket, finishing with 10.

Still, it was as close as the Indians would get. Ignacio opened up a multiple-basket lead and held on for the win.

Ignacio will play Paonia at 1 p.m. today at DHS for the regional championship and a spot in the state tournament’s elite eight.

Paonia beat Del Norte 43-28 on Friday at DHS in the other regional semifinal.

jsojourner@durangoherald.com

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