Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
Try as they might, the Durango High School girls basketball team couldn’t put away Grand Junction Central on the offensive end, particularly at the foul line.
So, as the Demons did all afternoon, they turned to defense.
A late turnover and missed free throws gave the Warriors some life, but Durango snuffed out any attempt at a rally, holding on for a 36-33 victory Saturday at DHS.
DHS (10-6, 3-4 Southwestern League) went just 1 of 5 from the foul line in the final 31 seconds, but the Warriors were unable to solve the DHS defense to capitalize.
“I have confidence in our defense, and I feel like with anybody in this league, we can play man-to-man defense with our girls and hold them if we need to,” DHS head coach Nancy Smith said.
Neither team really solved the other’s defense all that well throughout Saturday’s game. DHS shot just 9 of 42 from the field, with Central connecting on just 9 of 44 shots.
But despite making just 17 of 34 from the free throw line, Durango outscored the Warriors, coached by former DHS head coach Mary (Psenda) Doane, by six at the charity stripe over the course of the game.
Emily McCue provided a huge chunk of Durango’s scoring output, finishing with a double-double after scoring 13 points and pulling in 10 rebounds. Shanelle Bogus pulled in nine boards for DHS.
“My teammates were finding me, and they’re really good at finding the open person. I don’t know. I was just trying to make the shots and trying to be aggressive with it,” McCue said.
Durango pulled ahead 28-22 early in the fourth quarter, only to see the Warriors battle back to take a 31-29 lead with 4 minutes, 21 seconds to play. An Augusta Brockus layup brought things even, then DHS made a bit of hay at the foul line to lead 35-32 with 1:47 to go before holding on with quality defense.
“We’re working on playing under pressure, for sure. We’re definitely improving, which is really good,” said McCue, daughter of Frank and Julie McCue.
DHS did struggle a bit with the turnover bug again, committing 22 miscues, which Smith attributed to just a split second of indecision on some passes while adding that DHS, while not perfect, has improved in protecting the ball since the earlier stages of the season, particularly last month’s three-game losing streak.
“Sometimes we’ll see somebody’s open, and we’ll wait a second to throw it,” Smith said. “But we worked on that a ton – passing, passing, passing.”
Central led 10-8 after the first quarter and 18-17 at halftime.
The game started out a bit on the wrong foot. Both DHS and Central were assessed technical fouls for not having their scorebooks at the scorer’s table on time; the fouls offset each other. But McCue opened the game shooting technical foul shots for DHS after the Warriors’ lineup was incorrect in the official book.
DHS will play at Montezuma-Cortez on Tuesday.