All it takes is two.When the Ignacio Bobcats get contributions from all three vaunted big men, like they did Saturday afternoon in their 65-44 Class 2A Regional final win over Plateau Valley, head coach Chris Valdez believes they can beat anybody.
"Taylor (Dean) got on track early, Micah (Odoms) was able to do some things early," Valdez said of his 6-foot-5 wingmen. "When we get our big three - those two and Alex (Herrera) - going, or even two of them going, we're really tough."
Winners of 20 in a row, Ignacio will try to make it three more at Pueblo on Thursday to claim the 2A state crown in its first year in the class, after moving down from 3A.
"Everybody contributes, everybody's athletic, and everybody is playing for each other," Valdez said. "They're not playing for themselves. That's what makes a championship team."
Odoms, who led the Bobcats with 14, said he feeds off his team's excitement.
"I'm proud of my teammates," he said. "They kept me in it, and I'm glad I could rely on them. This team's real good. We get a chance to make history. It's been a long time since we went to state."
Herrera, dwarfing the Cowboys at 6-foot-8, had eight points, nine rebounds and three blocks despite sitting out the third quarter with the game out of reach.
Dean had nine points, two blocks and two steals, providing a boost from his role off the bench, and junior point guard Trae Seibel doled out the spoils, scoring 13 of his own and dishing six assists.
Following a sluggish start in Friday's semifinal win against La Veta, the Bobcats sprung to life after Dalton Schuman gave the Cowboys a 4-0 lead on a putback layup and a long jumper two minutes into the first quarter.
Seibel hit a driving banker to get Ignacio on the board and then found Herrera, who hurdled his fallen defender for the layup.
Oakley Hayes hit a 3 to regain the lead after two DJ Schuman free throws, then Dalton Schuman found Brandon Bruton underneath for another Plateau Valley advantage.
Dean, Ignacio's version of a gas pedal, forced a steal, passed it to Seibel, and turned to receive an outlet, a layup and a roaring ovation from the packed Durango High School gym.
The Bobcats seized the momentum.
Micah Odoms hit a pump-fake layup, Dean hit a free throw, Seibel found Dean for another layup, and Seibel drained two more free throws to go up 18-9.
The Cowboys fought back to 20-15 after a Dalton Schuman 3-pointer, but Odoms countered with a trey of his own to spark yet another Bobcat run, this one 10-0.
Seibel hit Dean for a layup, Odoms found Herrera underneath, and then Seibel again fed his big center for a layup and a 33-17 lead.
Two free throws from Troy Hawkins ended the run, but Ryan Brooks canned a dagger 3, and after two Ignacio free throws, the lead was 39-19 to end of half.
Plateau Valley went 5-0 after returning from the locker rooms, then Teddy Grundy and Dalton Schuman led a 9-2 Plateau Valley run, but Valdez took a timeout and Ignacio responded with a 6-0 run of its own, punctuated by a Taylor Dean dunk off an assist from Pedro Vigil, who earned a rare start.
"When I get the good fast break, and we need a good boost, it's up to me to throw the ball down or make the big shot," Dean said. "I think I really stepped up and some of my other teammates played good D and helped us out down the stretch."
Valdez said the Bobcats had expected an eventual Cowboy run.
"They made a run," Valdez said. "Good teams make runs. They've been ranked in the top 10 for most of the year. They made a good run at us, we kept our composure."
Vigil scored again after four consecutive DJ Schuman free throws, double pumping and hitting an underhand layup to keep the crowd on its feet in admiration of the hard-working sophomore.
Ryan Brooks and Ryan Egger made the most of their late minutes, extending the margin as the starters got a breather.
Oakley Hayes also contributed seven points and four steals.
Plateau Valley's DJ Schuman led all scorers with 15.
"It's great, because our coach has never been to state," Herrera said of advancing, adding that the Bobcats wanted to honor Valdez.
"I'm just really proud of these kids," Valdez said. "I've been to the regional championship game. I've been coaching 15 years, and I've probably been here eight or nine times and lost every time in 3A. Finally we get to go to the Elite 8. Sixty-two teams start the season, and there's eight left. Anything can happen."
In the girls regional final at DHS on Saturday, Meeker beat Dolores 48-29.
In the boys regional title game at Alamosa, Telluride lost to Sanford 52-44. Telluride handed Ignacio its only loss of the season 50-49.
Final state brackets in Class 2A are scheduled to be released today.