In order for the Ignacio High School basketball team to beat Bayfield for the first time since February 2015, Bobcats head coach Chris Valdez knew it would take something special. He got much more in Friday night’s Southwest Classic first-round matchup game at Montezuma-Cortez High School.
The Bobcats (6-0) made 13 shots from 3-point range in a 67-48 win over the Wolverines to secure a big win in the Pine River rivalry. IHS also earned its first win in the Classic after it was previously 0-6 overall and 0-3 against the Wolverines the previous three years.
Ignacio junior Bryce Finn led the Bobcats (6-0) with 18 points, Ocean Hunter had 16 and Bird Red came off the bench for a clutch 10 points. The Wolverines (1-7) were led by Hunter Bayles, who finished with 14 points, while Kacey Chandler had 13 and Crosby Edwards had seven.
Ignacio, ranked No. 5 in the latest Class 2A Colorado High School Activities Association poll, got off to a strong start and led Class 3A Bayfield 16-5 after the first quarter behind six early points from Finn.
Valdez attributed so many open looks to his team beating Bayfield’s zone defense.
“Well, they had a really aggressive defense,” Valdez said. “They were coming six, seven feet outside the 3-point line, even when they were in a zone. And what that does, is any penetration or inside passes sucks the defense and really does that ‘accordion’ stuff, and we were able to get wide-open shots. We took some bad ones, don’t get me wrong, but we hit the ones we needed to hit – that gave us leads and put pressure on them.”
In the second quarter, the Wolverines were able to close the gap to five points behind timely shooting from Chandler and Bayles in the post. The Bobcats held a slim 26-21 lead at the break.
Bayfield head coach Klint Chandler thought his team fought back admirably in the second quarter after a slow start.
“We’re too up-and-down, can’t play at the same level all game,” Chandler said. “But they fought back. We got back to what worked well for us, which was a good inside-outside game and quick ball movement, but we got away from that later in the game.”
In the second half, the Bobcats continued to hit shots, as they started on an 8-0 run before Bayles ended the run with a jump shot to make it 34-26 with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter. Finn had five of his nine second-half points in the third quarter.
“All season I haven’t really been able to shoot, and I’ve been thinking about it all season, pretty much,” Finn said. “But I’m going to get my shot going back in rhythm, and I knew that one of these games it was just going to break out, I’m going to start hitting.”
The Wolverines were able to cut the deficit to five points or less on three occasions but were unable to pull level thanks to IHS’ quick transition baskets. The Bobcats outscored the Wolverines 26-15 to lead 52-36 after three quarters.
Bayles thought BHS had positive momentum after halftime but said his team was unable to sustain that energy after the Bobcats’ big third-quarter run.
“We’ve just got to learn to keep those runs together, and when we go on a run, not let them come back on their own run,” he said. “Just keep the energy up. That’s kind of what killed us these last few games; we’ll go on a run, cut it down and get it close, then we kind of let off a little bit.”
In the fourth, IHS was able to pull away for good, as Hunter connected on his fourth 3-pointer of the evening midway through the final frame to make it 59-41. Red made a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded for good measure.
After picking up their first win against Bayfield since 2015, Finn said he is hopeful the Bobcats can keep up their strong play against Montezuma-Cortez (5-3) at 3 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s obviously a game we’re looking forward to that we have our mind set on,” Finn said. “(Cortez) beat us the last two years as well; it’s like, you want to go out there and get revenge on them. I know that they’re a really good-shooting team, they’re a really fast team – they kind of mimic our game, pretty much. So tomorrow, we’re going to look for rebounds and post-ups, hopefully use our size, and have a good game.”
Bayfield will look to end its four-game skid when they take on Durango (6-6) at 1 p.m. Saturday.