JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
Consider it all improvement from here.
Five wins. That’s how many total the Durango High School girls basketball team won last year.
It’s also how many they won this year – before the holiday break, before the season halfway point and even before the beginning of Southwestern League play.
Just seven games into the season, the 5-2 Demons already have matched last year’s 5-16 team’s win total before tonight’s 2013 tip in a non-league game against Kirtland Central at Durango High School.
That record’s not because the Demons are the tallest. And it’s not because they’re the fastest or the strongest.
“This group of girls basically works hard to get along, to encourage one another and to build each other up,” Durango head coach Nancy Smith said.
And that’s the five-win difference.
“We definitely have really good team unity,” Shanelle Bogus said.
“We know how to read each other.”
“Just knowing where each other are on the court ... and putting it all together,” Alyssa Montoya said. That’s what wins games, she said.
Durango rarely, if ever, will have 6-4, 225-pound girls walk onto its basketball court, Smith said, so the focus for the Demons is taking a group of essentially “soccer girls” and making them a basketball team.
Smith said the winning isn’t what’s important to her, as a coach; making the best of who you are with what you’ve got is.
“It’s like someone giving you a bunch of ingredients and saying, ‘Make something with it,’” Smith said.
That’s the fun, she said.
So far, that’s translated into winning, which is plenty of fun, too.
“It’s definitely a lot of encouragement,” said Bogus, daughter of Mike and Wendi Bogus.
The Demons’ biggest tests so far came at the Palisade Holiday Tournament as the holiday break began.
Against Cheyenne South from Wyoming, the Demons held off a long comeback to allow Molly Barnes’ go-ahead 3-pointer to win the game with seconds remaining.
Then against Palisade, the DHS girls put together a well-rounded if “high on the blood pressure” performance, as Smith put it then, for an eight-point victory margin.
Those wins finally showed the Demons that they can beat anyone in the Southwest, Smith said.
Against Palisade, it was finding Emily McCue, who scored 24 points to go with 11 rebounds, that was key in victory, Bogus said.
And against South, it was finding Barnes open beyond the arc, Montoya said.
That’s how the whole team-unity thing works, they said.
“Yeah, we can play a team that has height on us or that has speed on us,” Bogus said.
Where the Demons beat them is “knowing our teammates’ strengths and putting them all together,” Montoya said.
Plus some defense.
Smith said she learned early in life that anyone can play good defense.
“Because I grew up in North Carolina watching Duke,” the former Wake Forest player said.
“Our biggest goal is to be aggressive defensively and let our offense come from things we do defensively.”
And that will be critical tonight against Kirtland.
The Broncos should have some speed, though not size, on the Demons, who will look to control the transition game and set their own pace, Bogus said.
“We just have to put in the things we worked on over the break and put them in a game,” said Montoya, daughter of Richard and Victoria Montoya.