PUEBLO - When the Ignacio Bobcats go to sleep Saturday night, they'll have dreams and nightmares.
The Bobcats will dream of a return trip to the State Tournament, the pinnacle of high school basketball.
But, they'll also have nightmares about Cowboys - left-handed Cowboys.
Meeker's Cowboys, the No. 2 seed in the Class 2A State Tournament, used a barrage of left-handed 3-pointers and a stingy, physical defense to beat Ignacio 56-43 in the third-place game Saturday afternoon at CSU-Pueblo.
Shrugging off the emotional hangover of a loss Friday in the state semifinals, Meeker opened the game with an aggressive, quick-strike, left-handed attack.
Senior guard Brian Crowe, a lefty, hit the Cowboys' first basket - a 3-pointer from the left side.
On their next possession, Crowe hit a tough, driving left-handed layup.
Junior guard Mitch Jacob, a lefty, followed with an offensive tip.
And the lefties were just getting started.
By the end of the first quarter, Crowe had drained four 3-pointers as the Cowboys led 16-9 - with all 16 points coming from lefty Crowe and lefty Jacob.
The avalanche of left-handed points extended into the decisive second quarter, when Meeker outscored Ignacio 22-13 to take a 38-22 halftime lead.
Jacob hit three 3-pointers in the second quarter; Crowe added two more treys.
In all, the Cowboys hit nine 3-pointers in the first half.
They hit none in the second half but still held on for the third-place trophy and the 13-point victory.
"We have done that before," Meeker coach Klark Kindler said of the hot-shooting start.
"If Brian (Crowe) and Mitch (Jacob) are on, we tend to play well."
He said the Cowboys' offense was ignited by a solid defensive effort against the imposing Bobcats.
"We wanted two guys around their big guy (Alex Herrera) all the time. We normally don't zone. But we have worked on it (in practice)."
The zone defense frustrated the ice-cold Bobcats, who struggled with their shooting from the field and from the foul line (hitting only 8 of 22).
The Cowboys also dominated the rebounding, in spite of the change from man-to-man to zone defense.
"(Rebounding) was one of my concerns going to the zone," Kindler said. "But the kids did a good job of finding the basketball. This is a special group. We just finished the most successful season in school history," he said as the Cowboys ended the year 25-2.
Ignacio, with its most successful season in more than a decade, finished the season 23-3. The two final losses for the Bobcats came against No. 2 Meeker on Saturday and No. 1 Holyoke in Friday's semifinals.
"They (Cowboys) had some good looks early. But we didn't do a good job getting out on them," Ignacio head coach Chris Valdez said.
"The first five minutes of the game, we were right there. Then they hit a 3, then another 3, and another basket ... and all of the sudden the lead's up to 9, 10, 11 points," Valdez said.
"And, I'll tell you, against teams like Meeker and Holyoke, when you get behind, it's hard to come back," Valdez said.
"But you can't fault the effort. I love the way our kids gave that effort all the way to the end," Valdez said.
Junior guard Oakley Hayes led a brief Ignacio surge in the third quarter. He passed inside to Micah Odoms for a bank shot, then added a steal and a layup that thrilled the many Ignacio fans.
Odoms led another comeback bid late in the third and early in the fourth quarter. He logged three blocked shots in one stretch. Plus, he hit another close-in bank shot and passed to Trae Seibel for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to close the third period.
He took a pass from Herrera for a basket to open the fourth quarter.
He passed to Herrera for another inside basket on the next possession.
Odoms added a 3-pointer in the final period to lead the Bobcats in scoring with 11 points in his final game in an Ignacio uniform.
Junior Shane Brooks, despite foul problems, added eight points for Ignacio, including two 3-pointers.
Herrera, a junior, finished with seven points, coming off two big games against Heritage Christian and Holyoke.
"We were tired, no doubt about it," Valdez said after Saturday's game.
"I asked Al (Alex) to do too much. He's a big kid, and he was tired. I had to use him too much in the big comeback (against Heritage Christian). And again (Friday).
"He was just so tired; he couldn't post up the way he usually does," Valdez said.
The huge emotional victory Thursday, when the Bobcats came from 15 points down to beat Heritage Christian, also exacted a toll on the team, Valdez said.
"That first win was such an emotional win ... it was draining. Sometimes it takes a day or two to come back from an emotional win like that," Valdez said after reminding the Bobcats that they finished fourth in the State Tournament ... in the team's first trip to state in 16 years.
Sophomore Ryan Brooks scored three points for Ignacio. Senior Taylor Dean added a 3-pointer. Sophomore Pedro Vigil added two free throws. Senior Ryan Egger contributed a free throw. Junior Terence Whyte and fellow junior Anthony Porambo also saw duty for the Bobcats in the 2009 State Tournament.
Meeker's Crowe led all scorers with 22 points, all in the first half. Jacob scored 14 points. Tyrel Gerloff added seven points, and Dakota Rowlett scored six.
"That was my last game of high school basketball, and I wanted to go out with a bang," said the soft-spoken Crowe.
"I guess I just felt more comfortable than the last two days ... and my shots were falling," he said, quickly crediting the zone defense for the win over Ignacio.
"To get that experience here at the State Tournament is invaluable," said Valdez, the longtime Ignacio head coach.
"We've got ... nine kids returning, and if the opportunity is there, and we can get here next year, we can use (the experience). But there are lot of tough teams in the state," he said.
"I'm really proud of these kids. I'm proud of the program ... the fans and the school district. Everyone contributes.
"We had a great following this year, and we need to thank our fans, and the pep band. They came up here to support us. They all believed in us."
The Bobcats returning nine players next season include the 6-foot-8 Herrera.
Meeker, likewise, returns the bulk of its roster next season.
Missing, of course, will be one left-hander - Crowe. But lefty Jacob returns.
Along with Meeker coach Kindler, who just happens to be ... left-handed.
In Saturday's fifth-place boys game, Heritage Christian defeated Sanford 60-55 in overtime, led by 26 points from senior guard Jonathan McGinley.