On a night in which the stands were packed and chants echoed throughout the historic gym, the Mancos High School boys basketball team had its way on both sides of the floor while soaring to a 64-26 victory over Dolores High School on Jan. 28.
Among the keys to the Bluejays’ win was a balanced scoring attack that saw sophomore Connor Showalter score 20 points, sophomore Evan Sehnert score 14 points, senior Caden Showalter score 11 points and senior Anthony Medina score 10 points.
Constant energy from Mancos players on the defensive end also turned the tide of the contest as Bears players struggled to find open teammates and turned the ball over on several occasions against a 1-3-1 zone defense that seemed intent on vanquishing its longtime rival.
“This game (between Mancos and Dolores) means a lot more than any other regular-season game,” Medina said. “Dolores and Mancos, we’re cool out of sports, but when it comes to sports, they hate us and we hate them. We just want to come out and pound the living crap out of them and that’s what we did.”
While the final result of the contest was a lopsided one, the early portions were somewhat competitive as Connor Showalter scored six points for the Bluejays and William Swagerty converted two 3-pointers for the Bears.
Momentum began to swing in the second quarter, however, as Mancos head coach Elijah Knepper called for his team to trap out of its 1-3-1 zone defense, which caused a spate of Dolores turnovers that led to easy transition layups for the Bluejays.
“(Knepper) told us that we need to not be selfish,” Mancos sophomore Edgar Hernandez said. “We saw in the first quarter, we were unselfish and we ended up passing the ball a lot more and we got wide-open layups.”
Leading 28-12 at halftime, Mancos began the second half with a focus on pounding the ball inside as Caden Showalter posted up on numerous occasions before overwhelming smaller defenders and scoring easy layups.
Connor Showalter also exerted his will in the paint, as the sophomore ran the floor and attacked the basket with reckless abandon on his way to seven third-quarter points that helped Mancos carry a 47-22 lead into the final quarter.
“It’s important for us to be aware that (Caden Showalter and Connor Showalter) are open,” Knepper said. “A lot of times, I will be standing over here and thinking they are open and we might not throw it to them. Tonight, we made a concerted effort to pound it in to those guys.”
Although the final quarter was not a bright one for Dolores as the Bluejays outscored their opponents 17-4 over the final eight minutes of action, Bears’ head coach Justin Schmitt said his team could take some positives from the game.
Among those positives were stretches of offensive production and double-digit scoring efforts from sophomore Tru Seekins, who scored 11 points, and Swagerty, who scored 10 points for the Bears.
“There were stretches where I thought we played well, and there were stretches where we competed head-to-head with a top-10 team in the state in Mancos,” Schmitt said. “We had some trouble with their length. We would get the ball inside, and when we did, we struggled to score.”
With its record now at 10-3 overall and 4-1 in the San Juan Basin League, Mancos will have a week off before it hits the road to face Ridgway on Feb. 4.
Dolores, which is 4-9 overall and 1-5 in the SJBL, will enjoy a brief layoff before it returns to action for a home game against Nucla on Jan. 31.