Ignacio High School boys basketball player Bryce Finn doesn’t know when to quit. The day after the Bobcats missed out on qualifying for the Class 2A state tournament after a heartbreaking loss to Telluride, he turned in his equipment and went straight to the SunUte Community Center to take more shots.
“I finished up, turned my equipment in the day after districts and coach asked me, ‘What are you going to do now? Are you going to play baseball?’” Finn recalled. “I said back to him, ‘No, I’m just going to head to the rec center.’ I got back to work and started up again.”
As only a sophomore, Finn was instrumental in leading a young Bobcats squad to a share of the Class 2A/1A San Juan Basin League championship. For all of his accomplishments, Finn was named The Durango Herald Boys Breakthrough Athlete of the Year for the 2018-19 season.
“I would go to the gym to workout at least three times a week, and I’d always see Bryce there getting lifts in, working on his shots or anything to improve his game,” said IHS head coach Chris Valdez. “Bryce was first-team all conference, led our team in scoring, rebounding and always played his heart out on defense. He was always striving to get better. From where he came from his freshman year to this past season, his growth was remarkable. He outworked everybody and was the MVP of our team and just a really good kid. Really disciplined and a joy to coach.”
Finn’s growth in leadership was evident. A season earlier, the Bobcats advanced to the final eight of the state tournament. After IHS graduated many seniors, Finn stepped up.
“I knew coming into this year we wouldn’t have the same crew that we had last year, but playing with Kai Roubideaux, he really took me under his wing, and I learned a lot from him and he really taught me how to lead a team,” Finn said. “Going into last summer, coach Valdez really inspired me to work hard, knowing that we’d be losing all of these guys. From there, it was all about putting in the work at the gym.”
Finn, son of Josh and Terri Finn, averaged 15.8 points per game and scored in double-digits in all but one game. The forward developed his 3-point shot and consistently gave the Bobcats a chance to win, including the district tournament games.
Building into his junior season, Finn said he will strive to score 25 points per game. Valdez thinks it’s possible.
“I think the next big thing he’s gotta work on is attacking the basket for rebounding but also just attacking in a one-on-one scenario,” Valdez said. “He’s so athletic, that if he develops that part of his game and rounds out his defense a bit, he can be a really complete player for us.
“He works so hard already and with his work ethic and the ability to constantly want to get better. We haven’t used him much inside just because he’s a sophomore and he developed that step-back 3-pointer. He’ll go inside for us next year. You’ll see this kid who will be able to score inside-out and really help our offense be a lot more efficient.”
Finn said he’s also ready for a breakout season.
“The key I think is working on my rebounding, and when you’ve got guys like the Showalter brothers over at Mancos, it’s going to be tough, but I know that I can be just as physical as them,” Finn said. “They’re always on my mind, trying to think of ways to beat them. I’d like to be scoring from different parts of the floor, get to the free-throw line more and make a bigger impact in any way I can.”
The motivational factor behind this summer’s off-season workouts was the way that the 2018-19 season ended with the two district tournament losses.
“We all took the losses really tough,” Finn said. “We had won 11 district championships in a row up to that point, and seeing that we were the team that ended that, people in the locker room after the games were really shaken up by it and it was tough on everyone. More than anything, that motivated me and I am working a lot harder in my workouts than I did last year. I don’t want to have that feeling of falling short at districts again.”
Valdez knows Finn is on the verge of becoming a special player for IHS and he knows he’ll run into him at the SunUte Community Center sooner rather than later.
“When I found out I was named for this award, I was super honored,” Finn said. “But I also thought,‘If this is my breakout year, just wait until next year.’”
Editor’s note: The Durango Herald selected high school sports players of the year based on a unanimous decision between sports editor John Livingston and sports writer Brendan Ploen. Increased consideration was given to multi-sport athletes who showed leadership in their communities.