Right before the start of league play, the Mancos boys basketball team has sent a message to the rest of the San Juan Basin League – the Bluejays will be a major say in the league title chase over the next two months.
With plenty of transitions in the offseason, including the graduation of plenty of the team’s offensive output, first-year head coach Dusty Veach and the Jays have turned around a 2-4 start with three impressive wins, including a victory over Ignacio before the holidays, and more recently, a 40-37 win over 2A state preseason No. 1 Sanford.
Also part of that run, Mancos dispatched Creede, 81-14, and it appears as if defense has become a major calling card for the 5-4 Jays.
In their win over the Mustangs on Friday night, the Bluejays found themselves with a full battle on their hands right from the opening tip. The visitors built a 10-6 through the opening eight minutes, as Mustangs sophomore star Ben Sittler ignited the scoreboard.
Mancos responded in the second quarter, however, with junior Brian Veach attacking the basket for the Jays. Bluejay freshman Darren Daves added a pair of pair of 3-pointers to help Mancos surge in front, taking a 21-17 lead in to the locker room.
Defense from both teams kept the contest tight in the third quarter, as the two squads combined for only five total field goals in the frame, and Mancos held a tenuous three point lead heading into the fourth.
From there, a pair of the premier posts in the area, sophomore Kaiden Wyatt for Mancos and senior McCray Larsen for Sanford, produced a scoring flurry in the final stanza. Wyatt tallied six points of his game-high 11 points in the quarter, while Larsen answered with all nine of his points to keep the Mustangs in stride.
Mancos junior Andrew Jaime scored all six of his points in the second half to provide a big boost for the Jays.
In the end, the Bluejays’ better evening at the free throw line, shooting 12-for-20 on the night from the charity stripe while the Mustangs struggled in a 6-for-18 performance, and the Bluejays crossed the finish line with their third straight win in the series against the Mustangs.
League play gets underway for Veach’s Bluejays on Saturday, Jan. 14 against Ouray, before a home meeting with Telluride on Jan. 20. After their contest with the Miners, Mancos hits the road for five straight contests in the SJBL gauntlet.
Carrying a five-game winning streak into their second contest of 2023, Mancos’ girls found themselves skyrocketing up the 2A state polls, reaching No. 5 in the most recent CHSAA coaches poll.
That run, however, would come to an end at the hands of Sanford, which toppled the Bluejays 45-27, in spite of a team-best 15 points from junior Quincy Montoya.
The Jays struggled to get the offense in gear, falling behind 20-8 at the break, before generating more of a rhythm in the second half. By then, however, it was too late, as the Mustangs (5-4) leaned on senior standout Alyssa Edgar’s 22 points to pace the visitors.
Mancos drops to 6-2, and will need to bounce back quickly, as Dove Creek pays a visit on Tuesday, Jan. 17 for a nonleague meeting.