Pressure?Not this week. Not today.
"Those District Tournament games in Dove Creek, that was pressure. That (championship) against Telluride, that was pressure," Ignacio High School boys basketball coach Chris Valdez said.
"Those games in Regionals (last weekend), that was pressure."
The State Basketball Tournament, which starts early this morning in Pueblo, isn't pressure.
No, Valdez said, the State Tournament is the fun reward at the end of all those pressure-packed games.
"The State Tournament is not pressure. This is a reward for all your hard work," Valdez said on the eve of the Class 2A state championships at Massari Fieldhouse on the campus of CSU-Pueblo.
The Ignacio boys (22-1) play the first game in the 2009 state finals with an 8:45 a.m. matchup today against Heritage Christian (22-2) of Fort Collins, a private school about half the size of Ignacio High School.
Their game is the first of four boys' quarterfinals today in Class 2A. Mixed in will be four quarterfinals in the Class 2A girls' State Tournament, also at the recently remodeled Massari Fieldhouse.
Ignacio, coming off a Regional title last weekend, was seeded No. 5 in the eight-team bracket. Heritage Christian was seeded No. 4.
The Ignacio-Heritage Christian winner will play in a boys semifinal at 4 p.m. Friday in Pueblo. They'll take on the winner of No. 1 seed Holyoke (23-1) vs. No. 8 seed Sargent (16-7), who play today at 4 p.m.
The loser of the opening Ignacio-Heritage Christian game will play in the consolation round at 8:45 a.m. Friday.
Consolation and state championship games, along with third-place games, will be played Saturday at CSU-Pueblo.
"Getting to state was a step we all talked about early this year," Valdez said. "That was our goal ... get to state. Now we can focus on playing well and having fun ... the pressure of getting here is gone."
Today's game marks the first appearance by the Ignacio boys at the State Tournament since 1993. The Bobcats won their only state basketball title in 1988, and they finished second one year later.
They'll start their quest for another state title with the early-bird game today.
"We've had some morning practices, trying to get the guys ready to wake up and play (a game) early," Valdez said.
"We know what we're going to do ... we want to get out early and attack the basket," Valdez said.
The Bobcats will count on their familiar rotation that features 6-8 Alex Herrera on the inside along with teammates Micah Odoms, Taylor Dean, Shane Brooks, Ryan Brooks, Trae Seibel, Oakley Hayes, Pedro Vigil and Ryan Egger.
"We can worry about how we match up to them, but they have to ask how are they going to match up to us," Valdez said about the Bobcats' first-round opponent.
"They've got one guy about 6-6, but he's not their ... top rebounder," Valdez said of Heritage Christian's Damian Trost, officially listed at 6-7.
"Their coach's kid, he's their best kid," Valdez said, referencing the Eagles' Jonathan McGinley, son of head coach Kevin McGinley.
"He's averaging 20 (points) a game ... as a 6-foot guard," Valdez said.
"And they have a wing player who does all their rebounding," the IHS coach said.
Zach Peterson, at 6-3, leads the Heritage Christian team in rebounding.
"Obviously, he has a real nose for the ball. He's a leaper. And he must have that knack for attacking the basketball (as a rebounder)," Valdez said.
Valdez said he expects the younger McGinley to put up plenty of 3-point attempts, while Peterson and Trost work on the inside. McGinley is averaging nearly nine 3-point attempts per game. He had six treys in the Regional final.
Peterson had 20 points and 18 rebounds in the Regional semifinal last weekend. He hauled down 21 rebounds one night later when Heritage Christian beat Calhan for the Regional crown.
Heritage Christian and Lutheran Parker both qualified for the 2A State Tournament from their Mile High League.
Lutheran Parker (17-7) will open against Colorado Springs School (22-2) at 7 p.m. today in Pueblo.
Colorado Springs School was seeded No. 3; Lutheran Parker was seeded No. 6.
Meeker, the No. 2 seed at 23-1, will take on No. 7 seed Sanford (19-5) at 11:45 a.m. today.
Meeker and Sanford, coincidentally, also qualified their girls teams to the 2A State Tournament this year.
Top seed for the 2A girls is Wray (23-1), followed by Paonia (23-1), Sanford (19-5) and Meeker (18-6). Girls seeds 5-8 are Burlington (17-6), Hayden (21-3), Merino (14-9) and Akron (14-10).
"This is a great opportunity for us," Valdez said. "I know we'll come out and hit it hard."