Manitou Springs boys jump on James Irwin

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Photo - Photo courtesy of Single Wing Media
Photo courtesy of Single Wing Media

The Manitou Springs boys' basketball team showed why it's a top 10 team in the state Tuesday.

The Mustangs (9-1, 4-0 3A Tri-Peaks) turned what was a highly anticipated game at James Irwin (8-3, 4-1) into a showcase as to how good they can be in a 73-52 road victory.

"This was a statement win, absolutely," said Manitou Springs senior Lucas Rodholm, who scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half. "They've beaten some good teams, so to win here by more than 20 is big for us."

The statement the Mustangs (3A No. 8 in the Associated Press poll) made started on the first possession with a drained 3-pointer, and then snowballed into a 22-6 lead after the first quarter.

Behind Rodholm's solid performance and 25 points from big man Steven Jensen, Manitou Springs did what it wanted, when it wanted for the majority of the game - especially in the paint.

"We knew that they didn't have much height, and we wanted to take advantage of it, and we ended up running our offense through the post," Jensen said. "There was a little bit of talk before this game, but talk is talk, and playing is playing."

Manitou Springs not only walked the walk on offense, but got the job done on the defensive end as well.

James Irwin star guard Josh Mohammed had averaged 23.5 points in the Jaguars' first 10 games. Tuesday, he was held to seven.

"Travis Struble was the guy we put in charge of guarding Josh tonight - he's a really good defender, and when Travis was on him he did a real good job," Manitou Springs coach Ken Vecchio said. "We didn't do anything special, just played man-to-man and mixed in some zone. I was really proud of the team's effort."

It was the seventh straight win for Manitou Springs, which sits atop the 3A Tri-Peaks with defending state champ CSCS as the only teams undefeated in conference play. However, the Mustangs may just be scratching the surface.

"If we keep playing like this, and improving, this is going to be a dangerous team," Rodholm said.

James Irwin had looked like a dangerous team entering Tuesday, averaging more than 70 points. While the Jaguars were shell-shocked after the first quarter, they did battle back to make it a 43-37 game in the third quarter.

Senior Malique Chang led James Irwin with 15 points, but said the disastrous first quarter isn't anything new, and it needs to be fixed.

"It's been a problem all season," Chang said. "We come out in the first quarter and let the other team get up on us, and then have to fight back. It's a bad habit, and it didn't work out well tonight. We need a killer instinct from the start."o worries,

Jaguars coach Anthony Byrd has built an impressive program the past few seasons, and was hoping his team was ready for one of the biggest games in its history.

"Manitou played extremely well, but our guys didn't have the right mindset," Byrd said. "We made this game bigger than we should've. We thought we were ready to play, but when we scored six points in the first quarter, I knew something was wrong. This was a good measuring stick to show us we aren't quite there yet."