Playing like a team with state championship aspirations, the Mancos High School boys basketball team took its home court for a game against Dolores High School on Tuesday and left little doubt as to its superiority on both sides of the ball during a 56-19 win.
Keying the Bluejays’ dominant performance were standout defensive efforts by nearly every player on the roster, as Mancos’ patented 1-3-1 zone flummoxed Dolores’ offense and forced turnovers on numerous possessions.
Among the Mancos players who were especially effective on the defensive side was sophomore Connor Showalter, who was credited with a team-high seven steals. Junior Christian Cova and senior Anthony Medina were also terrors on the defensive end, as the duo had four steals each.
“Defensively, when you hold a team under 20 points, you’re going to take that pretty well every night,” Mancos head coach Elijah Knepper said. “You’re going to win 99.9% of games.”
“I try to get pressure on the ball so they turn the ball over,” Connor Showalter said. “(Forcing turnovers) is kind of my job up there.”
While the Bluejays’ defense stymied nearly every Dolores attack, the team’s offense ran like a well-oiled machine, as the ball zipped from side to side and players mixed well-timed cuts with ball screens and spot-ups.
Especially effective for Mancos on the offensive end was Caden Showalter, who dominated the paint while scoring a game-high 18 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. After recording yet another double-double, the stalwart senior is now just one double-double shy of tying Colorado’s all-time record for double-doubles in a prep career.
“My goal is to get these double-doubles and help out the team as much as I can by getting these rebounds,” Caden Showalter said. “Our plan was to get mismatches and work the paint. If they started double-teaming, I could just kick it out.”
After a solid first quarter that was highlighted by 11 points and a buzzer beating 3-pointer by Connor Showalter, Mancos expanded its 19-5 lead to 38-14 by halftime thanks in part to second-quarter 3-pointers by Connor Showalter, sophomore Edgar Hernandez and Cova.
As the second half got underway, the Bluejays continued to apply pressure by pounding the ball inside to Caden Showalter, who scored six points in the second half while consistently muscling undersized defenders out of his way.
Perhaps the most exciting highlight of the lopsided contest was delivered by Hernandez late in the third quarter, when the sophomore pushed the ball up the court in transition before faking a cross-court pass and hitting an off-balance layup as fans roared.
“I was extra energized tonight,” Connor Showalter said. “Dolores is a really good game for us, our rivals, it’s a big game. I was really pumped up; it was a good crowd.”
In addition to Caden Showalter’s 18 points, Mancos received 14 points from Connor Showalter, 10 points from Anthony Medina and nine points, five rebounds, six assists and four steals from Cova.
Dolores was led offensively by junior JJ Brunner, who scored five points, and sophomore Wyatt Koski, who scored four.
Now 13-3 overall and 7-1 in the San Juan Basin League, Mancos will play at home against Nucla High School on Feb. 13 before playing host to Ignacio High School on Feb. 18 for a game that will have major postseason implications.
Dolores, which is currently 6-11 overall and 2-7 in the San Juan Basin League, will play its next game at home against Telluride High School on Feb. 15.