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Durango girls use defense to stop Bayfield

Larson has big night for DHS
Bayfield’s Brooke Merchant and Durango’s Emma Fitzgerald (3) scrap for a loose ball during Tuesday night’s clash inside BHS Gymnasium.

BAYFIELD – Durango High School girls basketball head coach Tim Fitzpatrick saw a similarly-sized matchup against Bayfield on Tuesday night at BHS. Instead of playing straight up, he opted for a full-court press for the first quarter. The Wolverines couldn’t keep pace. Even when Bayfield did break the press, the Demons would get a steal and, three quick passes later, they’d be at the other end of the floor for a basket.

The Demons (11-6, 2-0 5A/4A Southwestern League) jumped into the passing lanes at every opportunity and used a big third-quarter run to pull away for a 54-30 road win Tuesday night in Bayfield.

“We put so much effort into defense and really enjoy playing it,” said senior guard Jael Larson, who led the Demons with a game-high 12 points. “We love getting steals, we love flying through the air to catch loose balls, and defense is something that holds our team together. That’s definitely one of the best attributes and virtues of this team.”

Emma Fitzgerald, Brenna Wolf and Maddy McManus all had eight points for the Demons.

Bayfield (4-7, 1-3 3A Intermountain League) was led by Macee Schulz with nine points. Maddy Oltmanns had another eight.

“I don’t think we were ready for their speed or their length at all,” Oltmanns said. “Moving forward, we have to do a better job of working as a team. Durango came out really fast, and it caught us off guard. ... I think if we’re going to be successful this weekend, we have to focus, slow things down and play our style.”

BHS head coach Josh Kitchen said his team expected to compete a bit better coming off a strong weekend of play at Centauri and Monte Vista, with a lopsided win at Monte Vista.

“I think what really hurt honestly wasn’t the press, it was their length,” Kitchen said. “The girls realized that it’s a little bit harder and that extra inch or two makes a big difference in the game of basketball.”

In the first quarter, Durango forced three turnovers in the first four Bayfield possessions and jumped out to a 6-0 lead, which it would extend to 9-0 before the Wolverines finally got on the board with a free throw from Cayenne Carlson. Riley Campbell made the lone field goal of the quarter for BHS after she sunk a jump shot at the elbow to make it 9-5 with under two minutes left in the quarter. In the waning seconds, DHS’ Wolf intercepted a pass and scored an easy layup to make it 13-6 after the first quarter.

In the second, the Demons backed off the press but continued to disrupt the Wolverines’ rhythm, as they were able to deflect more passes and forced Bayfield’s offense to settle for long jump shots. The Demons led 23-14 at halftime.

To open the second half, the Demons brought back the full-court press. DHS led by double digits for the first time of the night when Brenna Wolf drained a 3-pointer to make it 27-17 with just under seven minutes remaining in the quarter. That’s when Durango’s already-stout defense locked in, as it would hold Bayfield to four points for the rest of the quarter. Durango ended the quarter on a 14-4 run to take a 41-21 lead.

“Coach told us to keep playing good defense and don’t let up,” said DHS junior Kyle Rowland. “Being super scrappy is our thing, and we wanted to go out in the second half and keep it up. It’s always fun playing Bayfield, and it’s always a good game, so I think that’s what motivated us. You never know when you come out here on the road, so it’s fun to just get after it.”

In the final frame, the Demons were able to put the game away with baskets from Lily Longan and Larson, and a 3-pointer from Fitzgerald sealed the deal to make it 50-26 with 3:20 to go.

Both teams will return to league action this weekend, as Durango will host Montrose (14-3, 2-0 5A/4A SWL) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday after the initial meeting was postponed because of winter weather. Bayfield will host Class 3A No. 4 Pagosa Springs (10-2, 4-0 IML) at 5:30 p.m. Friday and will travel to No. 5 Alamosa (11-2, 3-1 IML) at 3 p.m. Saturday in Alamosa.

bploen@durangoherald.com

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