Determined to put his team in the driver’s seat from the start, Durango High School girls basketball coach Tim Fitzpatrick implemented a full-court press throughout much of the first half of his team’s road matchup against Montezuma-Cortez High School on Wednesday.
The result was striking as the Demons overwhelmed the young Panthers with nonstop pressure. The Demons started with a 25-2 run and never looked back on their way to a 63-18 victory.
We’ve had a tough schedule. We’ve lost four games by a total of 11 points,” Fitzpatrick said. “We had a really good practice last night and then to come out and start the game like we did tonight was good to see.”
Leading scorers for Durango, which played several bench players during much of the second half, included sophomore Mason Rowland, who scored a game-high 20 points, and junior Sydney Flores, who netted 12 points.
While M-CHS struggled to score all night, the Panthers did receive a solid offensive performance from junior Justina Bayless, who scored 10 points to lead her team.
“(The Durango full-court press) was just really overwhelming,” Bayless said. “We have a press break, but we were just so overwhelmed with everything that was going on, and we didn’t know how to set it up. We just fell apart.”
While the ability to score in transition factored heavily into the Demons win, so too did the team’s ability to drain field goals from beyond the 3-point line as Durango players combined to hit five long bombs.
The beginning of the Demons’ 3-point barrage came early in the second quarter when Rowland hit a 3-pointer from the right corner to give her team a 35-7 lead, before knocking down a second 3-pointer from nearly the same spot moments later to put Durango ahead 40-7.
“We were taking shots that were open, and I think we just need to keep doing that in our games to come,” said Rowland.
Complementing Durango’s outside shooting with an impressive post attack was Flores, who was nearly unstoppable throughout the game’s opening quarter, during which she scored eight points and grabbed numerous offensive rebounds.
“(Flores) was hurt, and now she has come back and she is full strength,” Fitzpatrick said. “She has really improved and worked on being powerful inside and being aggressive. It really showed tonight.”
Although highlights were few and far between for the Panthers, M-CHS gave its small home crowd something to cheer about during a solid final quarter, playing the Demons to a 4-4 tie.
A jump shot by Bayless to begin the final quarter made the score 59-16 in favor of the Demons, and the Panthers sophomore later closed out the game with a free throw after time expired to cut her team’s final deficit to 45 points.
“I think at the end, we really pulled through and showed unity,” Bayless said. “Lately, we’ve been seen as the underdogs, and we just really want to come up from that. We’re trying to find that chemistry. Slowly, we’re getting there.”
With their record now at 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the Intermountain League, the Panthers will look to put a check mark in the win column when they face off against Alamosa at home Friday.
Durango will take a one-day break before returning to game action for a home game against Montrose on Friday and a home matchup against Grand Junction Central on Saturday.