One never really heard anybody on a basketball court using a nickname to get Bryce Finn’s attention.
But with a signature upright, methodical, hard-to-guard 3-point jumper a primary weapon in his arsenal, a la former Ignacio and Fort Lewis College forward Ryan Brooks, to hear the current Bobcat tell it, it almost seemed biological he’d emulate the former Bobcat popularly dubbed “Chunk.”
“I’ve been working on my shot since I was probably in sixth grade,” Finn said. “All of us seniors played on traveling basketball teams together, really played a ‘rez ball’ style where it was just run and shoot, and I was just this little chubby kid shooting 3s all the time.”
That considered, a young Finn probably wasn’t expecting to one day become a frontcourt force, let alone at a maximum 6-foot-2, visibly shorter than a 6-6 Brooks type.
“That affects a lot of players when you grow six inches,” he said with a laugh. “On your arms, it makes your shot a whole lot different. After I hit my growth spurt and stuff, I was worried my shot wouldn’t come back or stay with me.”
Fortunately, as most every hoop head in the extended Four Corners knows, it definitely did, helping Finn cap a three-year varsity emergence with both First Team All-San Juan Basin League and Honorable Mention All-State honors in Class 2A.
“Knowing that you were one of the best in your (league) three years straight,” said Finn, who saw action in all 17 of IHS’ contests and averaged 14.5 points per game. “I kind of get emotional about it because it’s coming to the end of an era where I won’t have that opportunity anymore. It means a lot.”
Joining Finn in receiving both First Team All-SJBL and Honorable Mention All-2A was junior point guard Gabe Tucson, who booked 11.9 points per game in helping Ignacio, helmed by SJBL Boys’ Coach of the Year Chris Valdez, go 14-3 overall, 10-0 against all league opposition and 8-0 versus the SJBL’s 2A teams.
Slowed in the season’s early goings by an injured right ankle and later lost early during a win at Sanford in the Class 2A State Tournament’s Sweet 16, senior guard Brady McCaw, who returned to pace the ’Cats offensively during their season-ending Great 8 loss at Limon, still logged 11.9 points per game and also received Second Team All-SJBL.
“I missed games this season, so I wasn’t really able to prove’ myself,” McCaw said. “But it feels nice; I know I put in the work, felt like I deserved it.”
For Finn, the 2021 season’s success started two years earlier when the team only went 10-10. He said the group didn’t feel like they truly had lived up to the reputation of being Ignacio basketball players. So, he said the Bobcats collectively went to work to change that.
“That really poisoned us; I remember after that season how mad people were in the locker room after we lost at districts in two straight games,” Finn said. “Didn’t even qualify for regionals. People were so mad that it pushed us hard to start working. We didn’t want to be remembered as ‘that’ team.
“It’s just a lot of hard work. The hours people don’t see, going to the rec center at 5 a.m., lifting weights, then shooting, then going back and playing games; that’s the work that can really change a player, make him one of the best.”
Mancos junior forward/wing Connor Showalter was named SJBL Boys’ Player of the Year and was also a Second Team All-2A pick after totaling 19.2 points per game and helping new skipper Bob Archibeque’s Blue Jays (13-3, 9-2 SJBL) reach the Sweet 16, where MHS ultimately fell 57-52 to Julesburg-based Sedgwick County.
Sedgwick, however, then lost by 30 to eventual state champion Wray, ultimately led to a 16-0 finish by boss Karson Kuntz and senior point guard Junior Arambula, named this month the classification’s Coach and Player of the Year, respectively.