It was the boys game between Durango High School and Grand Junction that was supposed to be the highlight Saturday.
Instead, it was the girls basketball game that stole the show.
Durango went toe-to-toe with the Grand Junction Tigers, but the Demons didn’t quite have enough in the tank to get past the Tigers in a 56-47 loss at DHS.
Leading 40-39 going into the fourth quarter, the Demons (7-11, 5-5 Southwestern League) couldn’t stop Tori Catlett of Grand Junction (19-2, 7-1 SWL) in the final eight minutes as she scored nine of her game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter.
“I am sad for the girls but so proud of them,” DHS head coach Nancy Smith said. “Every single girl that stepped on the floor gave it everything they had. They couldn’t even breathe, but they all wanted to stay in.”
Grand Junction presented a tough challenge for the Demons on defense. With good size and solid athletes, an undersized Durango team couldn’t keep up down the stretch.
“I was defending a post, and it was hard,” said DHS junior guard Katie Wiegert, who stands at 5-7. “They are good finishers at the basket. We tried our best to stop them.”
Wiegert finished with a team-high 11 points for the Demons, and junior Augusta Brockus finished with 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the field. DHS freshman Katrina Chandler added nine points in the loss, and senior Emily McCue finished with seven points and a team-high 11 rebounds.
Durango’s performance was much improved from its 62-46 road loss to the Tigers on Jan. 24, though the Demons were without several players in that game.
“Our defense and communication have improved a lot, and we have grown together. Our chemistry is way better,” McCue said. “Grand Junction is just tall. We are a smaller team, so when we play big teams it is always difficult.”
There were seven lead changes in the game. Durango fought back from a five-point deficit late in the third quarter to take a one-point lead thanks to buckets by senior Jenny Welbourn and junior Jessica Sigillito.
But Grand Junction jumped out to a 52-46 lead with two minutes left in the game, and the Demons didn’t have enough energy to mount one more comeback.
“We are able to stay with teams. We just need to make sure we are on for a full 32 minutes,” McCue said. “We can’t have lapses. We need to be on point on both ends and be ready to go.”
Durango shot 4-of-6 from behind the 3-point line in the first half and 9-of-16 from the field, but costly turnovers limited Durango’s opportunity to build any kind of lead at halftime. The teams went into the break tied 31-31.
“One or two turnovers difference or one or two defensive stops and rebounds and it could have felt like a completely different game,” Smith said. “(Grand Junction) had very good ball pressure. Our passes just weren’t going through.”
Durango’s regular season came to a close with the loss. The Demons had a four-game winning streak snapped Friday night by Montrose, and they will enter the league tournament on a two-game skid when play begins Feb. 20.
“We need to get healthy. It has been our mantra all season,” Smith said. “Our junior varsity girls have done a fantastic job all season. We feel like we can play with anybody out there. If we can take two days off and get everybody back healthy, we will see what we can really do when full force.”