The Ignacio High School girls basketball team rolled through its season with few speed bumps and the reward was the No. 8 seed in the Class 2A state playoffs and the right to host the Region 8 tournament for the first two rounds of the playoffs this weekend.
As the eighth seed, Ignacio will host No. 25 Sanford in the first round of the regional at 3 p.m. Friday at IHS. On the other side of the regional bracket is No. 9 Denver Christian and No. 24 Paonia, which will play each other at 6:30 p.m. Friday at IHS.
Here’s a closer look at the regional semifinals:
No. 8 Ignacio (19-2) vs. No. 25 Sanford (15-7)Ignacio and Sanford have shared two common opponents this season in Pagosa Springs and Sargent. Pagosa Springs beat both teams by 20 or more, and both teams earned victories against Sargent. IHS beat Sargent by 19 at Sargent High School. In three games against the Farmers, Sanford had victories of 15, 10 and four points.
The Bobcats have been a dominant force all season and have outscored opponents by an average of 33.7 points per game while holding opponents to fewer than 22 points per contest behind a defense that averages 20.4 steals per game.
After missing two starters – sisters Avionne and Ebonee Gomez – during last weekend’s district tournament, the Bobcats are back to 100 percent for regionals.
“We’ve got our full squad back,” IHS head coach Trae Seibel said. “We’ve got all 12 of our players on the roster healthy and ready to go. Everyone came back and worked hard to get back, and now we’re ready.”
Avionne Gomez, a senior guard, leads Ignacio with 16.5 points per game and has swiped 4.6 steals per game.
Sophomore Morgan Herrera has nearly averaged a double-double this season with 14.6 points and 9.4 rebounds to go with 4.7 steals per game.
But the Bobcats are more than a duo of Gomez and Herrera. Allisianna Baker-Marquez, Larissa Gallegos and Makayla Howell have all averaged better than six points per game this season, and Jayden Brunson has had the hot hand lately with double-digit scoring in three of the Bobcats’ last four games.
The dynamic offense of the Bobcats should create an interesting matchup with the defense of Sanford, which has anchored the Indians this season, as they have allowed opponents to score an average of 28 points per game against them.
“They play a strict, hard-nosed man-to-man defense up in your grill,” Seibel said. “They deny the basketball and look for steals for you to make a mistake. For us, that’ll be awesome because we’ve got to have that hard-nosed defense in order to make a good decision. They play in a tough league with at least four quality teams, and for us they’re great competition. We’ll see where we’re at and how much our girls want it.”
Offensively, Sanford has been led by senior Taylor Larson and junior Nykia Ruvolo. Larson leads the team with 11.6 points per game to go with 2.7 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 2.2 assists per game. Ruvolo has added 7.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest.
“Sanford is a great ball club. For us, it’s about defending like no other,” Seibel said. “We have to come ready to play defensively and we can’t give them anything from the outside or inside. And we have to turn our defense into offense and put the ball in the hoop.”
No. 9 Denver Christian (17-4) vs. No. 24 Paonia (14-8)Denver Christian finished 11-0 in the 2A/1A Mile High League to earn the No. 9 seed but lost to Limon, which received the third seed in the state bracket, in its district tournament to keep the Thunder from hosting a regional.
Miranda Kortenhoeven and Kara Amidon have led the Thunder with 10.2 and 10.1 points per game this season, respectively.
Paonia has been led this season by seniors McKenna Palmer and Kassidy Rapke. Palmer leads the team with 9.2 points per game while Rapke has added 7.4 points per game.