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 Demons overwhelmed the young Panthers squad with non-stop pressure while beginning the game on a 25-2 run and never looked back on their way to a decisive 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 most of the second half, included sophomore Mason Rowland, who scored a game-high 20 points, and junior Sydney Flores, who netted 12 points in the contest.
While M-CHS struggled to score points throughout the evening, the Panthers did receive a solid offensive performance from junior Justina Bayles, who scored 10 points to lead her team through what she admitted was a tough matchup.
“(The Durango full-court press) was just really overwhelming,” Bayles 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.
“We were taking shots that were open, and I think we just need to keep doing that in our games to come,” said Rowland when asked about her team’s shooting barrage.
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 boards.
“(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.”
M-CHS did give its small home crowd something to cheer about during a solid final quarter during which they played the Demons to a 4-4 tie.
A jump shot by Bayles 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 had expired to cut her team’s final deficit to 45 points.
“I think at the end, we really pulled through and showed unity,” Bayles 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 standing at 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the 3A Intermountain League following their lopsided loss to the Demons, the Panthers will look to put a check mark in the win column when they face off against Alamosa at home Friday.
Durango (3-4, 0-2 5A/4A Southwestern League) will return to game action at home against Montrose on Friday and against Grand Junction Central on Saturday.