Jerry McBride/Durango Herald
Thursday’s game wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing affair.
But at the end of the year, they don’t ask how, they ask how many. And for the Durango High School girls basketball team, the answer is nine.
The Demons proved to be the less turnover-prone of the two teams as they took advantage of Montezuma-Cortez miscues to lead by as much as 20 before sealing a comfortable 45-28 victory at DHS to move to 9-5 and 2-3 in the Southwestern League.
Neither team shot the ball particularly well. DHS shot 19 of 68, while Cortez made just 10 of 42 shots. But the Durango defense helped the Demons overcome 30 turnovers by forcing an eye-popping 49 as the Panthers struggled to get the ball up the floor against Durango’s press.
“Our whole goal was to go out and put pressure on them from the very start, so we tried a couple different defenses to try and rattle their ballhandlers, and it was kind of fun,” DHS head coach Nancy Smith said.
It proved to be a strong bounceback game for the DHS defense, which had allowed 52, 65 and 62 points in dropping three consecutive games.
The Demons stymied the Panthers (0-13, 0-5 SWL) at every turn, holding them without points for the first 6 minutes, 8 seconds of the game. DHS led 20-12 at halftime and 37-21 after three quarters, going up by as much as 20 at 43-23 midway through the fourth quarter.
“We were looking for that because we know they weren’t a very strong offensive team, so we were going to capitalize on their mistakes, and so we just needed to go out strong and get those steals,” said guard Katie Wiegert, daughter of Coby and Jill Wiegert. “So our defense was our offense.”
Wiegert led the way offensively for Durango, scoring a game-high 10 points. Dominique Ward chipped in nine points.
Durango did well to fight off the recent injury bug to snap their losing streak. The Demons were without forward Emily McCue, who may return next weekend from an elbow injury, and Jessi Sigillito, who’s out with a knee injury. And they lost guard Molly Barnes for a stretch with an ankle injury. Fortunately for the Demons, Barnes was able to return.
“We have some fast, athletic girls ... Man for man, we can usually match up pretty well guard-wise defensively,” Smith said of her depth.
DHS will need to cut down on its own turnovers against strong teams such as Fruita Monument, Montrose and Grand Junction. On Thursday, the miscues may have been a byproduct of a group a bit overeager in a rivalry game.
“We’ve just got to slow down. We were too rushed,” Wiegert said. “We were going too fast.”
Simone Lopez and Nicole Demby led the Panthers with six points apiece, while Naomi Pinnecoose had nine rebounds.
The victory was a much-needed shot in the arm for Durango, and it’s a good start to a long homestretch that’ll see the Demons play their next four games at home, starting next Friday against Fruita Monument.
“I think it’s going to raise us to another level. We’ve got that confidence now,” Wiegert said.