When the Ignacio High School boys basketball team met Monticello, Utah, last season, the Buckaroos handed the Bobcats a 71-53 loss. A year later, the Bobcats returned the favor.
Ignacio played aggressively against Monticello’s man-to-man defense and picked the Buckaroos apart with strong drives in the paint and hot shooting from 3-point land en route to a 71-50 victory Tuesday night at IHS.
“They played man-to-man, so we really spread the floor, and they have a really good help man-to-man and are really aggressive with it, so we spread the floor to get some gaps on them,” Ignacio head coach Chris Valdez said.
The Bobcats adjusted their starting lineup for the game and played four guards around one post player to help open up space to attack the basket for high-percentage shots near the basket or drive and kicks to the perimeter for open 3-pointers. The philosophy worked, as five players scored in double figures.
Lawrence Valdez led the way with 16 points. Johnny Valdez scored 13 points to go with eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals. Ocean Hunter had 12 points to go with six rebounds, and Cole McCaw and Kruz Pardo finished with 10 points each. McCaw also had four assists and four steals, and Pardo dished out seven assists and snagged four boards.
The biggest challenge the Bobcats (15-4) faced in the game was trying to figure out an answer for Monticello’s Jake Freestone, a 6-foot-5 senior who scored 19 points for the Buckaroos (12-8).
“They have a big kid who’s 6-5 and athletic as hell. He actually got a dunk on us late in the game,” Valdez said. “He finished with 19 points kind of dominated us inside a little bit.”
The game was only the second of the season that the Bobcats had its full roster, and they will now turn their attention to the Class 2A District 3 tournament later this week in Cortez. The top-seeded Bobcats will play the winner of No. 4 Ridgway (8-11) and No. 5 Dolores (10-9) at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Montezuma-Cortez High School.
“We’re hoping with the district tournament coming up we can get the rhythm of our whole team,” Valdez said. “Ouray (on Saturday) was the first time we had our whole team together. Hopefully we can get some more rhythm through this district tournament.”