Chloe Weybright had never played in a Pine River rivalry game before Tuesday night. Wednesday morning, she’ll be embraced as the latest hero of the longstanding feud between Bayfield and Ignacio.
With the game tied at 55 with 6 seconds to play in the fourth quarter, Weybright, a senior who moved to Bayfield from Illinois, stepped to the free-throw line with the game in her hands. Admittedly not the best free-throw shooter on the team, Weybright showed poise and buried both of her free throws to give the Bayfield girls basketball team a 57-55 lead on its arch rival Ignacio.
Avionne Gomez, who hit a 3-pointer in the final minute of the game to give Ignacio its first and only lead of the game at 55-53, was unable to make one last dramatic 3 as time expired, sending the Wolverines to a massive home win.
“I was super nervous, and I usually miss free throws,” Weybright said. “It was the most people that’s ever been to one of our games, and I’m new here. I was so scared, but I had to breath and do it for my team.”
Weybright said she had no idea what to expect going into the game. When she looked up and saw packed stands, she knew Tuesday’s game had added importance. With the girls playing the 7 p.m. game, the stage was set for a classic, and neither side disappointed.
After Gomez’s dramatic 3 that gave IHS a two-point lead, the Ignacio crowd erupted while BHS head coach Lana Killough settled down her team. BHS missed two shots on its next possession but hauled in two offensive rebounds, capped off by Courtney Bayles’ put-back layup that tied the game at 55. It was a big moment for Bayles, who had picked up a technical foul earlier in the quarter.
IHS (3-2) stormed back down the court and tried to find a girl cutting to the basket, but the pass was a little off and created a loose-ball situation, and Weybright was fouled reaching for it. That set up her clutch moment.
“We were a couple of rebounds away,” IHS head coach Shane Seibel said. “They got those offensive rebounds and the putback. If we get one of those, it’s ball game.”
BHS (3-5) roared out to a 18-8 first-quarter lead behind a press defense that carried the Wolverines in the second-half of Saturday’s home win against Telluride. With athletic players and a deep bench, the Wolverines showed an ability to run up and down the floor, forcing 25 Ignacio turnovers in the game.
Taylor Morris got out to a red-hot start for BHS, as she scored 11 of her game-high 19 points in the first quarter.
“During warmups, I was making my shots, so I was excited to play,” Morris said. “This is such a motivating win. We’re proving we can win, and it’s been so long since we had this kind of team.”
Ignacio found an answer to Bayfield’s press in the form of freshman forward Morgan Herrera, who made her varsity debut Tuesday night after coming back from a concussion in the preseason. The younger sister of IHS legend Alex Herrera and recent IHS grad Nicholas Herrera made her presence felt with 10 points in the second quarter to help IHS cut the Bayfield lead to 33-27 at halftime. She finished with 15 points for the Bobcats.
“Morgan adds 100 percent hustle,” Seibel said. “She got to a point where she was so dog gone tired she couldn’t move. With her size and desire to play as hard as she can, she adds a lot to our team. It was a fun debut for her.”
As IHS kept crawling back into the game, BHS received big buckets from Weybright down the stretch. She hit a big 3-pointer in the third quarter and got an early jumper to fall in the fourth. She finished with 13 points.
Savannah Kaufman’s defense forced countless turnovers for IHS, and she finished with seven points for the Wolverines.
Both teams dealt with foul trouble all night, but IHS guard Alejandra Lujan fouled out in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter, dealing a big blow to the Bobcats. Still, young guards such as Kiana Valdez stepped up brilliantly. Valdez had 10 points.
IHS had a few injuries, too, as Gomez tweaked her knee and Makayla Howell went down with an ankle injury in the final play that sent Weybright to the free-throw line. Howell finished with nine points, while Gomez had 11.
IHS struggled at the free-throw line, shooting only 41 percent. Seibel also noted several missed layups as something the team can improve on.
“Those are good lessons, but dang it, we wanted to win that one,” he said. “Bayfield played hard, never gave up. Tonight was what basketball is all about.”
The win signaled a big turnaround with the BHS program under Coach Killough, who is in her second season coaching the team.
Now, with added confidence, the Wolverines turn their attention to the start of Intermountain League play Friday at home against Centauri.
“It’s an exciting time for the program as a whole,” Morris said. “The younger girls can see we can win. They should play, too, because this is going to be a fun program.”