The Durango boys basketball team has always had potential with its size, length and athleticism. But inconsistent play has haunted them this season. However, the Demons put together one of their best 32-minute stretches of the season on both sides of the ball and crushed Grand Junction Central 62-34 Monday night at home.
After the win, Durango improved to 10-10 overall and 3-3 in the 6A/5A Southwestern League. Grand Junction Central fell to 9-11 overall and 2-4 in the 6A/5A Southwestern League after the loss.
Grand Junction Central previously beat Durango 51-39 earlier in the season in Grand Junction.
“They knew it was a tough loss when we went up there so the boys had this one on the calendar to get some payback,” Durango head coach Alan Batiste said. “This was huge and it was in good fashion. We did everything, we were firing on all cylinders and the boys were having fun. I like watching them smiling and having fun and being a team. That’s the only thing we’ve been preaching all year.”
Senior center Jacob Neubert led the Demons with 13 points on 6-7 shooting from the field and 1-3 from the free-throw line. Junior guard Noah Miles also had 13 points after he shot 5-10 from the field and 3-6 from 3-point range.
The Warriors were led by senior Jackson Amos’ 10 points and senior Ryland Nostrand’s eight points.
Durango got off to a great start with 3-pointers by senior guard Zach Unruh and Miles. Unruh had a great steal and got fouled. He made a free-throw to push the Durango lead to 7-0 with 6:12 left. Miles hit another smooth midrange jumper to push the Demons lead to 9-2 with 5:30 left.
The Durango defense was great to start the game. The boys were active but disciplined. Neubert had a nice finish inside and Unruh hit a long jumper which forced a Warriors timeout down 13-3 with 2:17 left.
Neubert scored twice inside and showed off his size advantage. Miles hit one of the more impressive shots of the season. With only a few seconds left on the clock, Miles was double-teamed, elevated over the defenders and hit a deep 3-pointer to increase the Durango lead to 22-5 after the first quarter.
“Tonight was a little different because we got a lot in transition and we were finishing down low,” Batiste said. “Overall it’s just them wanting to be together. When they want to be together we’re able to be successful.”
Freshman forward Donovan Whitehead returned to the court after missing some games with AC joint shoulder sprain. He had a nice move inside to increase the Durango lead to 25-7 with 6:15 left in the second quarter.
The Demons were playing some of their best basketball of the season. They were causing turnovers and sharing the ball. Whitehead had a great pass to Neubert for a slam and Miles had a steal and score to push the lead to 29-7 with 4:03 left.
A 3-pointer and steal and score cut the Demons lead to 34-15. Whitehead had a response with a layup inside to push the lead to 36-15 with 1:33 left in the second quarter.
Amos hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the Warrior deficit to 37-18 at half.
Neubert got the scoring started with a nice finish inside. Unruh had a bucket and made a free-throw to increase the lead. Neubert’s presence inside was daunting for Grand Junction Central and he forced a lot of tough shots.
Durango moved the ball well all night. The Demons broke a full-court press, found Whitehead inside and he finished plus the foul to put Durango up 45-20 with 3:10 left.
“We’re just sharing the ball,” Batiste said. “They’re playing team basketball. Before we were dribbling a lot and that was early in the season. But now they want to be a team. Everybody is shining. When we win, everybody wins.”
The Warriors started finding some success at the end of the third quarter getting the ball to the high post and making midrange floaters. Durango led 47-26 after three quarters.
Junior Malakai Baire made a great cut and had a nice finish to start the fourth quarter for Durango. Batiste emptied out the bench to start the fourth quarter. Junior Otto Aaland hit a nice corner 3-pointer to officially put the game into blowout territory up 56-28 with 4:17 left.
Durango heads to Montrose to play next on Friday.