At times during the first half of its home game against Telluride High School on Feb. 2, the Mancos High School boys basketball team appeared flat and a step too slow against an opponent that they were expected to beat.
In the second half, however, the team’s energy level was a different story as the Bluejays flew around the court on the defensive end and pushed the ball in transition as they eventually pulled away from their overmatched opponents and won, 61-27.
“We came out kind of slow at the beginning,” senior point guard Christian Cova said. “At halftime, our coach got us up, so we came out fired up.”
“We communicated more in the second half and told each other where the screens were,” added junior Edgar Hernandez. “We didn’t have much communication in the first half.”
Also providing a significant boost for Mancos in the second half was the play of junior Connor Showalter, who consistently overwhelmed Telluride defenders with his size and strength on his way to a game-high 18 points.
“We just try to look for the open shots,” said Hernandez, when asked about the team’s unselfish approach and the stellar play of Showalter. “Coach tells us to rotate the ball, and when we do, we score and get open shots.”
Although highlights were aplenty for the Bluejays in the final two quarters, the opening quarter was a bit of a rough one for Mancos as Telluride limited the high-flying Mancos offense to 10 points while scoring six of their own.
A second quarter run keyed by several nice post moves by Showalter, a layup by freshman Chris Medina, and a transition layup by freshman Kail Wayman just before the half turned a 16-8 Mancos lead midway through the second quarter into a 25-9 Mancos advantage at halftime.
As the third quarter got underway, shots by Bluejays players continued to find the bottom of the net while the team’s defensive intensity picked up at the behest of Archibeque, who implored his team during the halftime break to increase its energy.
Three straight transition layups by Evan Sehnert that came after assists by Cova, followed by a 3-pointer by Hernandez from the left wing that was also set up by a Cova pass, the Mancos lead stood at 38-11 and the final result of the contest felt like a foregone conclusion.
“That’s just my game, I just like to pass,” said Cova, when asked about a third-quarter stretch during which he assisted on five consecutive Mancos baskets. “I saw that (my teammates) were open and I just passed it ahead.”
With Mancos ahead 40-17 to begin the fourth quarter and the game well in hand, Archibeque emptied his bench, and several young players responded by continuing to apply pressure and extending the Mancos lead.
Among the many impressive second-stringers for Mancos were freshman Andrew Jaime, freshman Brian Veach and junior Luika Cova, who all scored baskets. Senior Dustin Morning and junior Connor Sehnert also contributed on both sides of the floor while they were in the game.
“Those kids come to practice and they work hard,” Archibeque said of his second unit. “They deserve to get in and play.”
Leading scorers for the Bluejays included Showalter with 18 points, Sehnert with 14, Wayman with eight, and Cova with seven. Hayden Tealdi and Jack Courter each scored eight points to lead the Miners.
Now 3-0 on the season, Mancos will turn its attention to upcoming contests against Ridgway and Ouray at the Mancos Performance Center on Feb. 5 and Feb. 6, respectively.