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Bluejays advance to regional championship with win over Hoehne

Showalter brothers combine for 38 points as Mancos team wins 70-56
Mancos High School head coach Elijah Knepper has a conversation with a referee.

Playing host to the opening game of the Class 2A Region 4 Tournament on March 6, the Mancos High School boys basketball team (19-3) came out on fire and defeated Hoehne High School (11-12) by a score of 70-56 in front of a loud home crowd.

While the Bluejays’ 14-point victory was a bit tighter than they might have hoped, a dominant first half that ended with Mancos leading 42-19 set the stage for the lopsided victory.

Among the factors that contributed to the Bluejays’ hot start was a dominant first-half performance by senior Caden Showalter, who controlled the paint and showcased a variety of nifty post moves while scoring 18 of his game-high 21 points during the first 16 minutes.

“We knew that one of our advantages going in was that we were going to have a size advantage,” Mancos head coach Elijah Knepper said. “Caden scored 18 points in the first half. The challenge for us moving forward is to make sure that we keep getting him the ball if he has a good first half.”

Joining Caden Showalter with double-digit scoring were sophomore Connor Showalter, who score 17, and senior Anthony Medina and sophomore Evan Sehnert, who each scored 10. Sophomore Edgar Hernandez scored six off the bench, and junior Christian Cova and sophomore Connor Sehnert both scored four.

Hoehne was led by junior Nicholas Yates, who scored 12 points, and junior K.J. Rael, who chipped in 10 while playing against the Bluejays’ 1-3-1 zone defense, which has given opponents difficulties all year.

“(Hoehne) took a guy off one of the corners and moved him to the top of the key to make the pass a little easier,” Knepper said, when asked how the Farmers attacked his team’s 1-3-1 zone. “We’ve seen that before. The biggest problem that we had was that we didn’t rebound very well, and that cost us a lot of points – in the second half especially.”

The Bluejays also were affected down the stretch by a third-quarter injury to Medina, whose head was split open to the point of spouting blood, and Hernandez, who was clubbed in the nose while going to the rim.

Down two key players and playing many of their reserves, the Bluejays were outscored 22-12 over the course of a fourth quarter, which began with Mancos leading 62-41 and eventually arrived at a score of 66-54 with 2:28 left, at which point Knepper reinserted his starters into the contest.

“It was unfortunate that we were unable to close that game,” Knepper said. “(Hoehne) started pressing with about five minutes to go, and we were unable to handle it. We also weren’t able to make foul shots down the stretch. It was a good experience for everyone on our team, and a win is a win right now.”

The matchup between the Bluejays and the Bobcats was be the fourth between the two teams this season. Ignacio won the first matchup, 67-61, Mancos won the second matchup, 69-57, and Mancos won the third matchup, 54-50.

“I told The Durango Herald last week that (Ignacio) is the best Class 2A shooting team that I have ever seen, and my claim stands,” Knepper said. “Hopefully they game against (Dolores Huerta) goes six overtimes so they’re real tired for tomorrow.”