Playing in front of a packed gymnasium, the Durango Demons completed a regular-season sweep of their archrival.
Durango High School (11-5, 7-1 Southwestern League) downed Montezuma-Cortez 50-39 at home Tuesday night. Although they missed 20 layups and shot just 14-of-27 from the free throw line, Durango did enough to take care of the game late in the fourth quarter.
“A win is a win, but we have to play better than that at home in a rivalry game,” DHS head coach Alan Batiste said. “We just didn’t prepare ourselves (Monday) in practice, and it showed.”
Montezuma-Cortez played close with Durango the entire night. After trailing 24-18 at halftime, the Panthers cut their deficit to 35-33 going into the fourth quarter of play.
The Demons led just 36-35 with five minutes left in the fourth quarter when junior guard Nate Atencio knocked down a pair of 3-point baskets to stretch Durango’s lead to seven points.
“We couldn’t get nothing going offensively. Cortez had a lot of energy and put pressure on our guards,” Batiste said. “Atencio being able to hit that brought relief after only scoring every two minutes or so.”
Stepping up big defensively for the Demons was senior Isiah Mayberry, who shut out the Panthers’ Brackin Whiteskunk in the fourth quarter after Whiteskunk scored 10 of his team-high 13 points in the third quarter.
“Our biggest focus was to stop Whiteskunk. We know he is their best player,” said Durango senior center Trent Andrews, who came up with several big rebounds in the fourth quarter. “We put Isiah on him, and he was the hero.”
Dane Mestas led Durango with 14 points in the win. He scored 11 of those points in the second quarter. Andrews finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Atencio finished with 10 points.
Whiteskunk was the only Panther in double figures.
“I have to give credit to Durango. They played tough,” Montezuma-Cortez head coach Dusty DeBoer said. “They are a good team and well-coached. We respect them, but I thought for the second time in a row we had our shots to win this game. Between a couple of tough calls and our 24 turnovers, it was too much to overcome.”
DeBoer said he hopes they get another shot at DHS in the SWL tournament.
“We are itching for it. We are just hoping that our seeds play out so we can play them again,” DeBoer said. “It is hard to beat any team three times. Everyone in our locker room feels that (Durango) is a team that is very beatable. Plus, it is a rivalry, so we always look for that.”
The Demons have a chance to earn a share of the SWL regular-season championship if they can beat Montrose and Grand Junction at home this Friday and Saturday. Durango beat Montrose 51-48, and its lone league loss came at Grand Junction, 46-27.
“We just have to have good practices and bring the energy to it that we have the last month or so,” Batiste said.