IGNACIO – The Ignacio High School boys basketball team tightened its grip on the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League by pulling away from Dolores in the second half for a 57-37 victory Thursday night at IHS.
The Bobcats got the win despite being shorthanded. The team’s second leading scorer and top rebounder Kai Roubideaux suffered a knee injury in the first half and didn’t return to the court, and regular starter Lawrence Valdez was academically ineligible to compete. Entering the game, Roubideaux was averaging 14.8 points and eight rebounds per game, and Valdez was averaging 12.8 points per game.
With the two key players out, seniors Kruz Pardo and Johnny Valdez stepped in and filled any lack of offense the Bobcats may have faced.
“They kept the team together,” IHS head coach Chris Valdez said of Pardo and Johnny Valdez. “We had a couple of freshmen in the post and they gave them confidence, and that’s important. They took their shots when they had them, they led their team and they made sure they brought the team with them.”
Johnny Valdez led the team with 19 points, as he connected on five 3-pointers.
Pardo, who missed the first part of the season after violating a school rule about quitting a different sport, hit three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points, nine of which came in the second half.
“Kruz went off,” Dolores head coach Larry Schwartz said. “We had hands in his face and he made some spectacular shots. We just couldn’t stop him.”
In the first half, the Bears (8-6, 5-3 SJBL) kept it close with Ignacio (9-3, 7-0 SJBL) with a strong performance from Tristen Swagerty, who scored 11 of his 18 points in the first half.
“When we get him in the high post, he’s really athletic there and has a great spin move, and he can jump out of the gym so it’s tough to block his shot. He’s just a really good athlete.”
While Swagerty kept the Bears within reach, it was Ignacio sophomore Ocean Hunter who kept the lead in the Bobcats’ favor with eight points in the half.
Hunter finished with 12 points and had a big day on the boards with 14 rebounds.
“He has a great midrange game from the free-throw line and short corner. He’s one of the best players I’ve seen from that area,” coach Valdez said of Hunter. “They were running a 3-2 zone and it opened up space in that area for him. They gave him a chance at open shots from there early in the game and he knocked them down. But his rebounding, his offensive rebounding, I think he had six offensive rebounds, and a few of them turned into put backs. It was really important that he played the way he did today when his teammate was down.”
The Bobcats pushed their lead to double digits in the third. After Johnny Valdez scored a quick four points, Pardo hit a pair of 3s that made it 41-28, and the Bobcats held a 42-28 advantage to start the fourth.
Ignacio kept rolling in the fourth and got its lead to as many as 20 points before the final buzzer sounded.
On Saturday, Ignacio will host Norwood (2-10, 2-5 SJBL) while the Bears will play at Nucla (0-14, 0-6 SJBL).