DOVE CREEK – In the final game of the 2009 San Juan Basin League District Tournament last Saturday in Dove Creek, a fierce-fighting Ignacio team turned the tables on the Miners. Instead of winning the championship “One More Time” (as was printed on Miner fans’ T-shirts), it ended up being “Not This Time,” with Ignacio claiming victory, 43-36.
The game was the culmination of this season’s heated rivalry between the Bobcats and the Miners. Each team had claimed a one-point win over the other during the regular season.
Telluride faced a fired-up Ignacio squad on Saturday, who worked to shut down the Miners’ typically strong and steady offense. The Miners, who haven’t scored less than 50 points in any game all season long, only put 36 points on the scoreboard.
“We just weren’t efficient enough shooting the ball,” said Telluride head coach Mike Hughes. “I give a lot of credit to Ignacio’s defense, but ultimately, the ball just wouldn’t go in the basket.”
And the same was true for the usually high-scoring Bobcats. At the end of the first half, the score stood at just 17-12 in the Bobcats’ favor.
The Bobcats leapt onto the scoreboard early, but the Miners countered soon after with Mike Matthews going back-to-back with a three-pointer and a two-pointer, followed by a key rebound by Carl Schroedl that led to a fast-moving lay-up from Ian MacCracken.
Kevin Doody’s defensive prowess was tested in the final moments of the half, when he came up with a big deflection that kept the Bobcats from making any last-ditch offensive stabs.
The third period found the Bobcats’ resuming their pressure, with fast breaks and well timed steals that helped bolster their lead. Early on, Matthews, Doody and Jarred Brown all had good looks at the basket, but couldn’t get the ball to fall. Later in the third, Telluride saw their offense reignite, spearheaded by MacCracken, who knocked down four baskets to put the Miners within striking distance, 30-22.
The Miner momentum carried into the beginning of the fourth quarter, and with six minutes left on the clock a Matthews bucket brought the score to 30-26.
But the Bobcats were unrelenting, and the Miners found themselves in foul trouble in the final minutes of the game. Matthews had the final say, putting in a two-pointer at the buzzer, but it wasn’t enough for the win. Ignacio walked away with the trophy and the No. 1 seed going into this weekend’s regional tournament.
Hughes said that while the loss was a disappointment, his team is still poised to keep their state championship dreams alive. “This is obviously no time for us to panic,” Hughes said, noting that the Ignacio game – and the trouble his shooters had finding the basket – was hopefully an anomaly. “We’re moving forward, just via a different route than we had hoped. We still have to win two games to get into the Elite Eight, which is where we want to be.”
As the district tournament runners-up, No. 2 seeded Telluride travels to Adams State College in Alamosa for the regional tournament this weekend, where they’ll meet Rocky Ford, a team that was part of the Elite Eight last year. The winner of Friday’s 8 p.m. game will go on to play the winner of the Sanford vs. Fowler game in the Saturday final, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. The winner of that will earn a berth in the state tournament.
According to Hughes, the Miners are keeping their eyes on the prize. “We’re just relying on the same things that carried us to this point,” he said. “If things go as we foresee them to this weekend, we’ll give ourselves the opportunity to get to Pueblo and play at state.”