IGNACIO – It was a party in Ignacio for the girls basketball team Saturday.
The No. 8 Bobcats punched their ticket to the Class 2A state quarterfinals next weekend in Loveland with a 36-31 victory against No. 9 Denver Christian to win the Region 8 tournament at IHS.
“It’s insane; it’s scary. But it feels good to know you can count on your team,” Ignacio senior Allisianna Baker-Marquez said. “We all wanted it and we all played with heart. We’re gonna win this thing. It feels really good.”
The Bobcats gave up a considerable height disadvantage, but countered with their speed and defensive intensity.
Ignacio (21-2) built a 14-2 lead after the first quarter behind its full-court press that created several turnovers from the Thunder.
“The girls came out with nothing but pure heart and pure will that first quarter,” Bobcats head coach Trae Seibel said. “They know their potential and they know how good they can be, and they came out that first quarter and put it to Denver Christian. It was amazing to watch.”
The Thunder (18-5) figured out Ignacio’s press in the second quarter. In limiting turnovers and the easy chances the Bobcats created in the first quarter, Denver Christian slowed down the pace in the second quarter and held the Bobcats to only three points in the second.
Despite the three-point quarter, Ignacio took a double-digit lead into halftime with the score at 19-9.
The Bobcats suffered a blow when Morgan Herrera, the team’s second leading scorer and top rebounder, picked up her fourth foul 18 seconds into the third quarter. With Herrera on the bench, Ignacio got big minutes from Baker-Marquez.
“I was really nervous, but I knew I had to step up.,” Baker-Marquez said. “Being a senior, my mindset was ‘This could be my last time playing ever.’ I knew I had to step up and was able to. It felt really good.”
Denver Christian cut its deficit to eight points at 25-17 at the start of the fourth and scored the first six points to get within two with 5:20 remaining in the game and forced an Ignacio timeout.
In the break, Seibel told the Bobcats to weather the storm and that every great team faces big runs from their opposition and the only thing that matters is how they respond.
The Bobcats answered with a 6-0 run of their own to take control 31-23. Then, in the closing minute, Baker-Marquez snagged an offensive rebound and converted the put back to seal the victory.
“That’s been the story of our season. We’ve found ourselves down 10 to 15 points several times this season and we came back to win them,” Denver Christian head coach Kelvin Haidle said. “Sometimes it just runs out, and unfortunately today was that day.”
Baker-Marquez finished with 10 points for Ignacio. Avionne Gomez provided 13 points, and Herrera had 10 points.
Sydney Beijer and Jesse Koorneef led the Thunder with six points each, and Kara Amidon and Miranda Kortenhoeven had five points apiece.
The Bobcats will match up with No. 1 Yuma (24-0) in the Elite Eight at 11:45 a.m. Thursday at the Budweiser Event Center in Loveland. The quarterfinal game is a rematch to last year’s quarterfinal, when the top-seeded Indians beat the eighth-seed Bobcats 43-18.