Looking like it had not played in nearly three weeks, the Mancos High School boys’ basketball team struggled with turnovers and sloppy play, but still did more than enough to win during a 70-57 victory over Center High School on Friday night
Among the keys to the Bluejays’ victory was a strong first half highlighted by the team’s tough 1-3-1 zone defense and numerous transition buckets. Paced by seven first quarter points by senior Caden Showalter and eight second quarter points by Connor Showalter, the Bluejays carried a 42-22 lead into halftime.
“One of the things I told the guys since the beginning of the week was that we had a massive size advantage against (Center) and we needed to exploit that,” Mancos head coach Elijah Knepper said. “Early, I felt like we did that and we got some tips on the defensive end. I can’t wait to see what kind of percentage we shot in the first half, it was really high.”
While the first half was a positive one for Mancos (5-2, 1-0 San Juan Basin League), things were not as smooth for the Bluejays over the second sixteen minutes as turnovers defensive breakdowns allowed Center to score easy buckets and briefly close the gap.
Thanks to eight third quarter points from senior Anthony Medina and a four point play by sophomore Evan Sehnert however, the Bluejays entered the final period leading 56-36 in spite of a 12-6 run by Center midway through the quarter.
“It was one of those deals where we were up 24 and it was like, now I can go get mine,” Knepper said. “It’s unfortunate that it was like that because I think we had an opportunity to really come out and prove a point that we’re for real and (our win) over Cortez wasn’t a fluke.”
Despite the Bluejays’ difficulties at times during the third and fourth quarters, several players remained active on the defensive end and blocked several shots. Among those players was Caden Showalter, who rejected three consecutive shots during a key possession in the third quarter.
“I love blocking shots,” the senior said. “It’s not really a goal to get as many blocks, but rather, I just want to play good defense. If (blocks) happen, they happen, but I don’t jump all the time and go for the highlight plays like I did during my freshman and sophomore year.
Among the scoring leaders for the Bluejays were Sehnert, who scored 20 points, Connor Showalter, who netted 17, Anthony Medina, who chipped in 14, and Caden Showalter, who scored 11.
When asked about his team’s balanced offensive attack, Knepper lauded his players’ unselfish play before noting that the Bluejays’ ability to utilize several scoring options will pay dividends down the road.
“Obviously, some games you’re going to have to have a guy go off and carry you a bit,” Knepper said. “We’ve had guys go off for 20 points this season, but I think (our balanced scoring) makes it tough to defend us.”
Habran De La Cruz led Center (4-2) in scoring with 18 points and Devin Porres chipped in 13.
Next for Mancos is a Tuesday game at home against Monument Valley out of Utah.