Still very much built for speed on the basketball court, Ignacio head coach Trae Seibel knows his Bobcats will also have to be built for battle this winter as IHS returns to the Colorado High School Activities Association’s Class 3A ranks.
Specifically, the rugged Intermountain League, of which Ignacio was last a member in the 2007-08 season.
“Our practices have been geared for that, big time,” said Seibel, who’d led the ’Cats during the 2017-18 campaign, taking them to the CHSAA Class 2A State Championships in Loveland. “We’re really just getting them into shape; we have to be a team that is able to press well and be able to break a press.”
“We’re back in the IML, so … for us, it changes our whole dynamic; there’s no more winning 89-2 or things like that,” he continued. “It’s going to be a dogfight day in and day out. Centauri looks great, Pagosa’s big, Alamosa’s going to be tough … and we have to go through those teams now to get to the next level. Our dynamic’s had to change; it’s intensified, for sure.”
Having surfaced above .500 just twice during the 2021-22 grind, the ’Cats fortunately broke even under one-year skipper Tony Gomez despite falling 47-38 at Peyton in the 2A-Region VIII semifinals. Ignacio finished 11-11 overall – making the ’Cat program 180-126 in its 14 seasons in the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League. IHS also lost Avaleena Nanaeto Elisia Cruz and Monika Lucero to graduation.
“We did get basically everybody back,” said Seibel, “so we’re returning players and hoping that we can build off of last year, continue to grow. That’s my biggest thing: To get better.”
“What we’re doing a lot different is bringing in a system of read-and-react. And a lot of low-post, high-post attack,” he said. “We’re really going to build upon the guard set we’ve got … and the girls are now learning how to play their positions, learning about mismatches, and really growing their intelligence – to figure out how to take the basketball and put it in the hoop!”
Senior guard Laci Brunson returns to anchor the backcourt, and will be joined by junior Darlyn Mendoza-Lechuga, sophomore Marissa Olguin, junior Maci Barnes and others. Freshman Alyssa Atencio, according to Seibel, will be a prospect worth watching, with further depth offered by potential returnees Alexis Ortiz, Lauren deKay, Grace Pargin and Dalaney Wesner.
“We’ve got about four to five guards that are quick and know how to work hard. Right now it’s just about refining their skills, teaching them how to go inside, pass to our posts,” he said, “and how to move with purpose and really take care of the ball.”
“We have a strong guard set, and a strong post set as well with Soly and Harmony,” Seibel added, referring to junior Solymar Cosio and senior Harmony Reynolds. “It’s a good balance we have.”
Joining Seibel on the bench will be a coaching staff headed by varsity assistants Gina Cosio and Cloe Seibel. Avionne Gomez returns to direct the junior-varsity squad, and Makayla Howell will oversee the C-team.
“In the IML, Gina was a force,” he said. “And she coached under Chris Valdez when he was the girls’ coach; she’s got a lot of experience. These ladies that I’ve hired, it’s good for the young ladies to look up to them and go, ‘These girls used to play a high level of basketball!’ It’s good mentorship. And for the coaches a good opportunity to give back what they’ve learned.”
The ’Cats will get underway at 7 p.m. Thursday, facing Olathe at the Centauri-hosted Mountain Top Classic.
IHS defeated Olathe twice last season – once at the MTC, and later in the 2A-District 3 Tournament’s third-place game, ending Olathe’s season while extending their own into the Class 2A State Tournament’s opening round-of-32.
The winner will then face either Dove Creek – which reached last season’s Class 1A State Championships and finished 21-3 overall – or Centauri’s JV on Friday.
“Our goal is to really compete,” Seibel said. “My focus is on Olathe, make sure we take care of business, and see what we’ve got right off the bat.”
Also in the mix will be Centauri’s varsity – last season’s IML champion with a 7-1 mark, – plus now-5A Durango (17-8 last year, eliminated in the Class 4A ‘Sweet 16’), now-3A Cedaredge (22-4, fifth place at the 2A state championships), and still-3A Brush (9-12).
Now classified as a 4A/3A league, the Intermountain includes now-4A programs Alamosa and Pagosa Springs, plus still-3As Centauri, Bayfield and Montezuma-Cortez. For postseason play, CHSAA has designated Southern Peaks Leaguers Crested Butte to be part of a district comprised of IHS (reclassified to 3A this year for basketball only), BHS, CHS and M-CHS.