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Season preview: Four Corners basketball teams set to launch season

Connor Showalter of Mancos High School puts up a shot over Ignacio High School in this file photo. Showalter returns for another year with the Bluejays, which went to the 2A state tournament last season.
Mancos sets sights on another run in playoffs

It's a fresh start across the board.

A year after shortened seasons for the four area programs, the 2021-22 campaign offers promise for both the returning playoff contenders, and the rising youth movements. Last year, the Mancos boys and Dove Creek girls represented the Four Corners in the state tournament, and have their sights set on a return visit. Meanwhile, the other area teams look to continue building into contenders in the 2A/1A San Juan Basin and 3A Intermountain Leagues.

Connor Showalter fights for a rebound during last season’s win over Custer County. The victory advanced the COVID-thinned team to the final 16 teams in the 2A state basketball tournament.
Mancos brings back Showalter, athletic lineup

Much like the Bluejays football team, the Mancos boys basketball program has taken off in the past several years.

Coming off a 13-3 season and a trip to the Round of 16 in last year's 2A state tournament, the Jays are looking for another deep postseason run. The roster, which has a heavy dose of football crossover, is headlined by 6-foot-4-inch senior Connor Showalter, who ranked among the state's leaders last year, averaging more than 20 points per contest.

Classmates Edgar Hernandez, an all-state cross-country runner, and Evan Sehnert, the team’s sharp-shooting No. 2 scorer, will help facilitate an athletic backcourt for head coach Bob Archibeque's second season. Sophomores Chris Medina and Kail Wayman played strong roles in their first seasons of high school basketball a year ago, and look to carry their success from the football field on to the hardwood.

The Mancos girls program enjoyed one of its most successful seasons in program history last winter, collecting its first winning season since 2008-09 with a 10-3 mark. The Jays missed out on an appearance in the state 2A playoffs but are hungry to provide an encore to their successful campaign.

With the graduation of four-year standout Madi Hale, the Jays will turn to a host of returning talent to pick up the scoring slack, led by senior Rhiley Montoya and sophomore Quincy Montoya. Volleyball standout Teya Yeomans will be the focal point in the post for Mancos, as the trio averaged more than 20 points per game combined.

Mancos kicks off the season with trips to Meeker and New Mexico. The girls face the field at the Meeker Cowboy Shootout Dec. 2-4, and the boys travel to Rehoboth Christian for a tournament, also Dec. 2-4.

The girls will open at home against Grand County, Utah, on Wednesday, Dec. 8, and begin league play on Jan 11 at Ignacio.

The boys will wait until the new year for their home debut, against Ridgway on Friday, Jan. 14. They play their first league game Friday, Dec. 17, at Ouray before taking the holiday break.

Dove Creek’s Kalie Gatlin holds the ball during the second half of her team’s win over Mancos. She and Kylie Gatlin appear ready to shoulder some of Grace Hatfield’s scoring responsibility.
Dove Creek primed for another run

One quarter. That’s what separated the Dove Creek girls basketball team from a trip to the 1A state semifinals a season ago. The Bulldogs led No. 2 Kit Carson until the final moments of their state quarterfinal thriller, before suffering their only defeat in a 14-1 campaign.

Even with the loss of their starting backcourt and 1,000-point scorer Grace Hatfield to graduation, the Bulldogs seem to have all the pieces to help them reload for another league title run. A rising group of sophomores and juniors have put head coach Julie Kibel’s Bulldogs in good hands, as Kalie and Kylie Gatlin appear ready to shoulder some of Hatfield’s scoring responsibility.

Junior Lexie Gray enjoyed a strong volleyball season and is ready to help control the boards for a high-pressing Bulldog attack.

On the boys side, Dove Creek sat on the outside looking in at the 1A postseason last year, capping the season with a 7-6 record. Junior Kade Hankins emerged as one of the most prolific 1A scorers, averaging just shy of 20 points per game.

The Bulldogs will look for ways to complement Hankins. Seniors Ryan Jarmon and Chorbin Cressler will play their final season for head coach Ty Gray, and the Bulldogs, coming off their first winning season since 2015-16, appear primed to make plenty of noise in the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League.

Both the boys and girls programs head to the San Luis Valley for Sangre de Cristo’s annual season-opening tournament Dec. 2-4. The Bulldogs open at home against border rival Monticello on Tuesday, Dec. 7. Dove Creek hosts its annual Bulldog Classic in their final games of 2021 (Dec. 17-18), before opening league play at Ignacio on Thursday, Jan. 6.

Montezuma-Cortez High School junior Justina Bayles dribbles around a Bayfield defender last season. The Panthers, which lost its season opener to Aztec, looks to bounce back in Shiprock.
Montezuma-Cortez looking for a rebound

Both the Montezuma-Cortez boys and girls programs saw youth movements in the 2020-21 season, and enter winter with high hopes that last year's challenges and experience will pay dividends.

Continuity on the coaching front, with Mike Hall guiding the boys program in his eighth year, and Brad Wright returning for his second year at the helm of the girls program, will help the development of their young squads.

The boys posted a 2-12 mark a season ago, but saw a bulk of their scoring coming from its sophomores. The Panthers hope to continue developing in a tough 3A Intermountain League, as they seek a return to winning ways and a trip back to the 3A postseason for the first time since 2018-19.

The girls team, 2-10 last year with a very young squad, will be led by senior Justina Bayles, who scored nine points per game and looks to help guide a promising group of sophomores and juniors to success this year.

M-CHS’ boys will open their season at home against Grand County, Utah, on Thursday, Dec. 2, before facing Gunnison in The Jungle two days later. The annual Southwest Classic kicks off the 2022 schedule, with Ignacio and Durango on deck for Jan. 7-8. League play commences Friday, Jan. 14, with a visit from Centauri.

The girls already played their season opener, a 36-28 loss to Aztec, on Tuesday, Nov. 30. They look to bounce back with a return to the Jerry Richardson Invitational in Shiprock. The three-day event will see the Panthers take on some of the best teams in the Four Corners from Dec. 2-4. League play awaits on Jan. 14, when the league-favorite Falcons come to town.

Dolores’ top scorer, senior Tru Seekins, returns to an ambitious Bears team. New coach Brice Searles will lead the team.
Dolores talent returns

Dolores heads into the 2021-22 season with plenty of ambition, with their sights set on a return to the top half of the 2A/1A SJBL.

The boys finished 5-9 last year, while the girls posted a 4-8 record, but both have a strong group of returners ready to step up to the challenges of a rigorous league schedule.

In the offseason, the boys program announced the arrival of new head coach Brice Searles, and will look for seniors Tru Seekins, their top scorer, and Wyatt Koskie and Tyler Nowlin, to pace the Bears offense.

Another Class of 2022 standout, senior Allie Kibel, looks to carry her success from the softball diamond onto the court this winter. Kibel, along with classmate Ashaunee Begay, hope to provide leadership in support of head coach Tiffany Hill's sixth season at the helm.

Dolores will join Dove Creek in their eastward travels to the Sangre de Cristo Thunderbird Tournament on Dec. 2-4. Then, on Friday, Dec. 10, the Bears play host to M-CHS to open up the home schedule, before both the boys and girls play host to Ridgway in their SJBL opener on Tuesday, Dec. 14.