By Joel Priest
Special to the Silverton Standard
IGNACIO — One would have thought that the toughest resistance — other than the hardwood floor, which he’d literally “faced” too often already in his efforts—Will Custer would have encountered would have been 6-foot, 7-inch-tall Joao Campos, who’d matched the Miners first seven points in helping the enemy lead 12-7 after one quarter of Friday night’s opening game.
But Ignacio’s 6’7” exchange student-athlete wouldn’t score again, while Silverton’s center was just getting started. Being Friday the 13th, the problem emerged when Lady Bobcat Alejandra Lujan stepped onto IHS gymnasium’s court, and stood against Custer for the late-scheduled nightcap’s tip.
“She’s a really competitive player — I think she might have been the one who hit me in the face!” Custer laughed, recollecting the contact which sent him — rather nonchalantly, at that — to the bench with a bloodied nose for the last 1:22 of the first quarter and first six minutes of the second.
“But she’s … really fierce … and I think this also shows whether you play boys or girls … there’s going to be competitors. We knew coming in … we couldn’t go easy on them, they couldn’t go easy on us.”
The Miners led Dylaina Morelli’s junior-varsity 11-7 after one, getting eight points from Custer, two from guard Alexis Gallegos and a free throw from forward Levi Lokey, but in Custer’s extended absence Lujan was able to net six of her team-high 11 points to keep IHS close.
“You know, we don’t see Silverton all the time and you get a little mix in there with the co-ed,” said Morelli. “It’s neat to play against ’em so you have to play against girls AND boys; it’s a challenge!”
Two lay-ins by forward Ernesto Saldana kept Silverton just enough in the clear, and a late 3-point play by Custer helped the Miners lead 20-13 at halftime. Helping the Lady ’Cats win the third quarter, 12 points to eight, Lujan gave Ignacio their lone lead (25-24) with 2:09 left before Miner guard Hannah deKay swiped it back with a layup at the other end … but then fouled out hustling with 1:26 left.
Silverton led just 28-25 heading into their night’s eighth frame of hoops, but a tense race to the finish never materialized; IHS managed just a Veronica Gonzales FT (a rarity in itself; Ignacio was an awful 2-of-13 at the stripe), while the Miners got two Gallegos points and five from Custer in a 35-26 win.
Custer netted a game-high 20, after booking all 22 — including 14-of-25 from the foul line — Miner points in the squad’s 31-point loss to Trae Seibel’s C-team boys, which got 11 apiece from guards Isaiah Harrison and Brandon Bigleggins. Saldana finished with six points in Game 2, and Gallegos four.
“It seems that we always do better in our second game, so we’re going to call every game our ‘second,’ even if it’s only our first, so we play better!” quipped Custer. “But we keep our heads up, and even if we lose by 20 or how-many-ever points, we’re going to keep our heads high and the next game we’re going to go out and compete.”
“I’m not sure why!” head coach Dan Salazar echoed, of the developing Game 2-versus-Game 1 trend. “So we’re just going to run them to death before every game so maybe they go into it tired and warmed-up already! It’s probably just them settling into it and getting rid of the nerves.”
“I love the doubleheaders because it just adds more basketball,” Custer stated. “It’s always been a passion of mine, and I think the team is starting to have a passion for it.”