A massive free-throw discrepancy was the story of the game Thursday night when the Ignacio High School girls basketball team paid a visit to Del Norte High School to open its new gymnasium.
Ignacio had three key players foul out, including leading scorer Makayla Howell with 4 minutes, 45 seconds still to play in the third quarter. Del Norte went 23-of-35 at the foul line compared to 5-of-6 for the visiting Bobcats, and the host Tigers held on to secure a 53-50 victory.
“It’ was a free-throw show,” said IHS head coach Justa Whitt. “We have got to stop reaching, for one. Second, we have to stop making stupid fouls away from the ball.”
Whitt wouldn’t blame all the whistles for the loss but indicated a complaint would be made.
“It was difficult, but the girls regrouped,” Whitt said. “We had different rotations going in there, and we kept with them and kept making runs. We played great defense, but defense was hard with the size mismatch without (Howell) in there. But we had to play with what we had.”
IHS (3-5, 1-0 San Juan Basin League) overcame a double-digit deficit of 49-39 with 4:45 to play and cut it as close as 51-48 with 40 seconds to play. But Kendra Parra of Del Norte (7-1), which entered the game ranked No. 4 in the latest CHSAANow.com Class 2A poll, made two free throws to give her a game-high 18 points and extend the Tigers’ lead to 53-48. The game would end on a layup from Ignacio’s Avaleena Nanaeto, who finished with seven points.
IHS was led by Howell’s 12 points. Ebonee Gomez added nine points, while Jayden Brunson and Charlize Valdez each scored eight.
Along with Parra, the Tigers got big games from Gabby Jones and Kaeci Madrid. They each scored 16 points. Many of the Tigers’ points not scored at the foul line came from close range.
IHS had a 7-0 advantage in made 3-pointers. Brunson and Valdez each made two, and Monika Lucero had a big 3 that gave Ignacio its last lead of the game at 20-18 in the second quarter before the Tigers went on an 8-0 run to close out the half.
In the fourth quarter, Gomez and Valdez both fouled out for IHS.
“We were in a brand new gym, and it was kind of quiet with no energy in there,” Whitt said. “That was part of the slowness at the start of the game. But our girls picked it up after half and brought it to them as much as they could and almost won.”
IHS has now lost four of its last five, all to top-ranked opponents. Whitt believes her team is learning lessons at the right time of year.
“This is going to fuel them where it needs to fuel them, and that’s the end of the season,” she said. “It’s been a little rough to lose these games knowing we could have won a few of them without a few mistakes here and there and not quite finishing. We will continue to work on that. We have five more weeks of the regular season, and we get Del Norte and Pagosa Springs again at the end. We have a good three to four weeks to fine-tune and be ready for these big teams again. It looks promising for the next go-round. We just have to regroup and get them the next time when they come to our house.”
IHS will look to improve to 2-0 in league play Friday night at home against Dolores.
“We’re ready to progress through the season. We’re not in a bad spot,” Whitt said. “Our record might not reflect that, but, mentally, our girls will be where they need to be by tournament time.”