Editor’s note: This story was corrected to reflect that the Mancos-Dolores game is at 6 p.m., Feb. 21 in Dolores.
Playing in front of a loud and boisterous crowd at the Mancos Performance Center on Feb. 17, the Dolores boys basketball team survived an upset bid by Mancos and walked away with a 63-57 victory.
Crucial for the Bears was the ability to weather an early storm that saw the Blue Jays seize a 14-5 lead midway through the first quarter thanks to tough man-to-man defense and eight early points from junior Caleb Yoder.
Mancos’ lead grew to 24-14 later in the first half thanks to six second-quarter points from freshman Caden Showalter, who fought through consistent double-teams and scored three easy buckets near the low block.
Dolores weathered the early storm however, and after a slicing layup by senior Tristan Medina off a pass from Swaggerty and four straight points from Smith, Dolores tied the game, 26-26 with less than a minute left in the first quarter.
A driving layup by Medina with 10 seconds left in the first half put Dolores ahead 28-26 and after the game, Dolores head coach Larry Schwartz commended his team for fighting back.
“This was a hostile environment, and (Mancos) came out ready to play,” Schwartz said. “There was a lot of blue in the stands and it was a great rivalry night. I’m really proud of my boys. They hung in there and persevered.”
With both teams looking to gain momentum after the halftime intermission, Yoder and Medina reminded fans of the intensity of the Mancos-Dolores rivalry during an entertaining sequence that featured the sharpshooting guards exchanging three-point buckets and barbs.
After Yoder pushed Medina to the floor with his right, drained a long three and held his hand in the air while back peddling down the court, Medina drove the length of the court and drilled a three of his own with Yoder looking on.
Immediately after sinking the shot, the Dolores senior turned to Mancos fans and pressed his finger to his lips as if to remind everyone that Bears would not be going away anytime soon.
Three-pointers by junior Justin Purkat and junior Christopher Rudosky later in the third quarter put Dolores ahead 46-36 before a 5-1 run by Mancos cut the Dolores lead to 47-42 entering the fourth quarter.
The Blue Jays would pull even closer when a three-pointer by freshman Nic Baikie cut the Dolores lead to 53-51, but an 8-0 run Bears’ run following the Mancos bucket all but sealed the Blue Jays fate.
“We played hard the whole game, no doubt about it,” said Mancos head coach Ed Aiken. “We had our moments where things didn’t go our way and we made some errors, but we played well throughout. We just came up short.”
Showalter and Yoder led the Blue Jays in scoring with 18 points each, while Swaggerty and Smith scored 17 points each to lead Dolores.
Now finished with their regular seasons, Mancos (6-13 overall, 3-9 in SJBL) and Dolores (11-8 overall, 7-5 in SJBL) will face off in the pigtail game of the Class 2A District 1 Tournament in Dolores on Feb. 21. The game will begin at 6 p.m.
“I definitely encourage everyone to come and watch,” Medina said. “We’re going to play for the right to go to Districts. If we win, it will be the first time in a long time that (Dolores) has been to Districts.”
“Our goal is to make some noise,” said Aiken, when asked about his team’s goals for the postseason. “Our goal is to make our presence felt.”