Moose gain IML lead with gutsy second half in Bayfield

Alamosa’s Noah Romero keeps his balance while driving through the knee of Bayfield’s Ryan Phelps during Saturday’s clash inside BHS Gymnasium.  Romero would score 15 points to pace all players. (photo courtesy Joel Priest)

BAYFIELD— Mathematically speaking, one times one equals…one. Always has, always will.

On the basketball court, however, sometimes that equation yields a different product. “Yeah,” lamented Bayfield senior guard Dax Snooks.  “Coach calls it the ‘multiplier effect’: We make one mistake, we get down and…make another, and another after that—it just keeps multiplying together.” “We have to learn how to shut that down quick.  But if we don’t do that….”

Something like what happened Saturday evening inside BHS Gymnasium is bound to repeat itself.  And in the 3A Intermountain League, where every team could potentially shock last season’s IML District Tournament champion, repeat itself at the worst possible time.

“Our league is so darned tough!” stated Alamosa head coach Brandon Brubacher, sweat still forming on his brow long after the Mean Moose shocked the Wolverines 47-32.  “Which is great…for all of us that we get to be in a tough league.”

Despite getting an early, tone-setting three-pointer from senior Ry Adams, AHS (10-1, 4-0 IML) still trailed 9-7 after one quarter and 20-17 through two.  But battling as hard as their #2 ranking in the Class 3A poll might hint, the visitors managed to not only overcome senior Sebastian Palacios’ three fouls and senior Angelo Ramirez’s two, but went into halftime energized by the fact that Bayfield senior Ryan Phelps—who’d netted 29 of BHS’ winning 57 points in Pagosa Springs the night before—also had two personals.

“Honestly, yes,” said sophomore Ian Jackson, who’d scored three points coming off the bench, but whose real impact was yet to come.  “But our team, we play as a team; teamwork wins ball games.  Playing as a team, not getting frustrated with each other—that’s how we pulled this off.”

“And with our two bigs in foul trouble, their big in foul trouble…at one time I think both teams pulled all the posts off the floor and it was ten guards!” Brubacher noted.  “I think we were both kind of in the same boat as far as depth goes—at that position—and luckily our kids stepped up, handled the ball well and got some points at the rim when Phelps came off the floor.”

Junior reserve Nicholas Brubacher began the third quarter with a tying trey, but Wolverine junior forward Hayden Farmer quickly answered with a basket assisted by Phelps, and Bayfield (8-5, 3-1) got a serious morale boost when Ramirez was whistled for his third foul with 6:44 left.

It didn’t last long.  Introducing himself properly to the opposing fans, Jackson drove hard to the far side of the rim and not only managed to get a runner up and over Phelps’ destructive arms, but watched it fall through the net as Phelps was called for his third.  Jackson sank the ‘and-one’ free throw, tying the score again at 25-25. BHS would never lead again.

Held to just two points in the first half, senior guard Noah Romero correctly sensed that the tide had turned in Alamosa’s favor and drove in for a go-ahead basket.  With 2:49 still remaining, junior Chad Jackson converted a three-point play after taking contact from Wolverine senior Dawson Heide—increasing AHS’ advantage to 32-25, and Romero then rapidly cashed a three, upping it to an inconceivable ten.

Bayfield senior McKay Wells would answer with a basket inside, but Romero (15 points) wasted no time in responding, drawing contact on another daring drive to the hole, making his shot, and then sinking the bonus FT with 2:08 still remaining—giving the Moose a 38-27 lead they’d take into the fourth frame.

And after failing to score a single field goal in reply, the Wolverines’ six-game winning streak was history.“They’ve been playing this kind of defense all year,” Bayfield head coach Jeff Lehnus said, “and that’s why they’ve only had one loss.  We have some more work to do.”

“One streak’s ended; now we have to start another one.” Farmer managed to log a team-high 12 points, but Phelps would finish with four fouls and only eight points.  Wells totaled a quiet six and Snooks booked but four as BHS struggled to slow AHS’ penetrations with junior Keyon Prior still out due to a booted left ankle sustained against Monte Vista a week earlier.

“Don’t know exactly would have happened if we’d had Keyon,” Lehnus said, “but we just couldn’t risk it.  He could have went, maybe, a minute or two, but…. We need to have him when it really matters.”

“We know how different they’ll be—and better they’ll be—with Keyon out there; we know that’s a big loss for them,” Brubacher said, looking ahead to the Feb. 9 rematch in the Valley.  “But…I just felt a comeback coming from them, and luckily we were able to hold it off and pull one out!”

“I felt like our kids responded,” he continued.  “This is a very hard gym to win in!  A great crowd, a great environment—it was hard to leave here with a win." Following up on the previous night’s 55-41 home win over Centauri, Alamosa’s victory—capped by two Adams FTs after Wolverine junior Turner Kennedy fouled out with 0:25.9 left—was, fittingly, their sixth in a row. Totaling 12 points, Jackson joined Romero in double figures while Adams and Chad Jackson each contributed six.  Ramirez fought for five—all in the second quarter, keeping the Moose close early—and Brubacher ended with his three.

“Ian’s been a sparkplug this weekend,” Brandon Brubacher said.  “Just a sophomore, he’s come out and been real coachable, very determined, and has…really propelled us these last two games against quality opponents.”

Alamosa hosted Tri-Peaks Leaguers Buena Vista  on Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m.  Fresh off a 71-52 win Saturday over Rye (3-8), the Demons are 0-1 against the Intermountain, having lost 53-52 in overtime to CHS on December 15.

“Buena Vista—who has one of the top, very best players in the state in Cade Carroll [a CSU-Pueblo commit who rained down 38 points upon RHS]—will be a good challenge,” said Brubacher.  “So we’ll look forward to that…break from the IML, then get right back to a very powerful league we’re definitely proud to be a part of.”

“Play strong and physical, smart and together,” Jackson said.  “Play as a brotherhood and we’ll do good.”