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â€™ ball: Lady â€™Cats survive at BHS
Written by: Joel Priest
Valerie Armstrongâ€™s game-opening three-pointer hinted to all inside BHS Gymnasium that Ignacio might finally buck a long-running, pro-Bayfield trend in the Valley neighborsâ€™ hardwood history.
But the Lady Bobcatsâ€™ 49-46 victory depended most upon the gameâ€™s M-V-P: Mariah Vigil, Post.
â€œItâ€™s my senior year and weâ€™re playing Bayfield,â€ she said, after a 21-point outing included 11 key free throws in 14 attempts. â€œAnd we all know that Bayfieldâ€™s our rival; we just wanted to get to â€™em.â€
With over 20 fouls called in the first half however, it was tough for either team to sustain any momentum gained; IHS took a 10-5 lead after one, but with Lady Wolverine junior Jaida Ross matching Vigil in getting to the charity stripe [each tried ten] early, the halftime deficit facing BHS was just 27-23.
Two Haley Clarke FTâ€™s with 2:17 left in the third quarter finally pulled Bayfield even at 34-34, but Ignacio reserve guard Jordan Cuthair responded immediately with a crucial three-pointer, and senior Michelle Simmons followed shortly after with a hard-driving lay-in, drawing a foul on Clarke.
Leading 39-34 entering the decisive eight minutes, the Lady â€™Cats caught a break with 7:03 left when Clarke received her fourth personal, and junior Gabriela Garcia capitalized with two free throws for a seven-point advantage. That joy did not last even a full minute (and was virtually gone in 61 seconds).
Simmons picked up her fourth with 6:18 left, and her fifthâ€”though Ellie Seibel appeared to have been the officialsâ€™ initial targetâ€”with 6:02 remaining, DQâ€™ing her from her last IHS-BHS clash with six points. With alternate point guard Sky Cotton already observing from the bench due to injury (incurred before Tuesday), and Armstrong (nine points) carefully watched, the loss could have been crippling.
â€œTrying to get the girls pumped up before the gameâ€”some, their last time playing here in this gymâ€”I reminded them weâ€™re probably not always going to get a call that we want,â€ agreed head coach Justa Whitt. â€œAnd that was proven. Some of our second-stringers stepped upâ€¦very proud of them.â€
â€œI think everyone that subbed in for whoever had foul trouble really stepped up,â€ Vigil concurred, referring to the work of Cuthair (three points), Seibel (five) and Chrystianne Valdezâ€”but unintentionally expressing a truth for the 3A Lady Wolverines (7-8, 1-3 Intermountain) as well.
Ross finished with eleven points, and senior Micaela Knickerbocker earned every one of her team-high 15, but BHSâ€”especially after starter Destini McGhehey fouled out with 5:59 leftâ€”stayed close thanks to efforts of senior Layne Bulwan (four points), junior Carrie Yost (six) and junior Andrea Lahoz.
Already with a three-pointer in the frame, Lahoz went to the line for three foul shots when Ignacioâ€™s Cloe Seibel fouled out with 1:29 to play. Making one, BHS was back to 46-42, and a Ross putback with 0:19 left sliced the Lady Bobcatsâ€™ lead to just 47-46.
There was little doubt it was must-foul time for Bayfield, particularly if IHS looked to simply stall with no plans to shoot. Sure as the sun, a foul was committedâ€”unfortunately with Vigil taking the contact.
With feet shoulder-width apart, knees well bent, a robotic cock of her left elbow and proper snap of her wrist, twice the ball left her hand and twice it stretched the stringsâ€”though Ignacio couldnâ€™t fully celebrate a rare triumph until Knickerbockerâ€™s desperation toss from midcourt sailed underneath the basket.
â€œPlayed their butts off, and Iâ€™m so proud of them,â€ said Whitt, once a Bayfield Volleyball coach in the mid-1990â€™s after her basketball-playing days at the University of Colorado.
â€œWe havenâ€™t beaten Bayfield inâ€¦I donâ€™t know how long,â€ she added [research found more than a few victories, including a three-game sweep in the 2004-05 seasonâ€”likely the most recent, prior to Tuesdayâ€”and a 57-42 verdict during the â€™95-96 season, after Whitt led BHSâ€™ C-team spikers in the fall].
â€œTo have a win like that, at this point in their season, we can move forward on that momentum [pauses] more than I can ask for,â€ she said.
Improving to 9-7 overall (still 4-1 in the 2A/1A San Juan Basin), the Lady â€™Cats host Mancos tomorrow evening in league action. Bayfield hosts Monte Vista (2-10, 0-4) in IML play tonight.
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