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Durango senior shines on All-State stage

Rowland almost posts double-double in win
Watched at rear by Arvada West's Brooke Meeks, Durango's Mason Rowland extends a difficult shot – preceded by a perfect spin move across the paint – over and away from Eaglecrest's Nia McKenzie during the 2023 Colorado Coaches of Girls' Sports All-State Basketball Games' Class 5A/6A feature Sunday at Grandview High School in Aurora. Rowland scored eight points in helping the Red team rip Blue 64-42. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

AURORA – Her name omitted by the public-address announcer after she netted her first basket as a 2023 Colorado Coaches of Girls’ Sports All-Stater, Mason Rowland proceeded to give the gent plenty of subsequent chances to call it out by simply doing more of … well, everything.

But the one name she wanted to ensure fans filling Grandview High School’s gymnasium remembered most was spelled out across the front of her black jersey in capitalized white letters: D-U-R-A-N-G-O.

“It’s amazing, coming from a small town and then coming up here to play with all these people,” she said, following a solid all-around performance in the Class 5A/6A feature on Sunday. “It’s really, truly an honor and I’m grateful I was able to do it.”

“I’m happy I got to play in my uniform one last time … and this time came out with a win!” the Colorado Mesa University-bound Rowland added, flashing a smile undoubtedly saved since DHS’ season-ending loss March 9 to CHSAA’s eventual Class 5A state champion Roosevelt (Johnstown) in the tournament’s Final Four. “So that’s exciting!”

Standing alongside Colorado Springs Cheyenne Mountain's Alena San Agustin (13), Durango's Mason Rowland relishes the atmosphere – including player introductions – preceding the 2023 Colorado Coaches of Girls' Sports All-State Basketball Games' Class 5A/6A feature Sunday at Grandview H.S. Rowland and San Agustin were both part of the Red team, which ripped Blue 64-42. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Registering eight points and seven rebounds, plus logging no fewer than four steals in a comprehensive 64-42 conquest, Rowland reserved her best for last after initially earning scorebook ink with 4:28 left in the second quarter to increase the ‘Red’ team’s lead to 22-15.

That advantage grew to 29-19 entering halftime. Red then began the fourth frame up 43-30 after four Rowland points helped Red – coached by Colorado Springs Cheyenne Mountain’s Dawn King and Aisha Matthews – outscore Blue 14-11 in the third.

With her team continuing to separate on the scoreboard, Rowland assisted a three-pointer by CMHS talent Alena San Agustin, swelling the lead to 54-35. Moments later, Rowland netted her final prep-level basket by pirouetting left to right through the paint – eliciting oohs and aahs definitely deserved – and flipping up a full-extension finger-roll over and away from Centennial-based Eaglecrest’s Nia McKenzie.

“Run our lanes and get shots when we had them, or attack and kick … or look for the pick-and-roll. We talked about the little things too; rebounding was a main thing we were focusing on,” Rowland said. “But really, our main talk in the huddle was about just getting into transition; we could get up the floor for easy layups – that’s one way to run up a score.”

All told, CMHS’ Anila Owens and Highlands Ranch Thunder Ridge’s Kyrah Daniels each scored a Red-leading 12 points. Littleton’s Dalana Jakovljevic totaled nine points, and Aurora Vista PEAK Prep’s Ashlyn Stapleton equaled Rowland’s eight.

Playing for her Falcon High School coaches Chris Wood and Bri Hawthorne, Caislyn Long booked a Blue-best eight points in defeat. McKenzie scored all her seven points after intermission, and Westminster’s Alexei Trujillo scored five of her six during the fourth quarter.

“It was really fun to play with people that love the game as much as I do, and have skill above everyone else,” Rowland said. “And we bonded really quickly because we all love the game, something easy to bond over. I loved everybody here.”

“I think having the time off that I did during the fall was hard, but it made me grateful for the time I can play now,” she added, alluding to the injury which stole much of her senior-year volleyball season. “It makes me love the sport even more; I had fun this year – this was fun – and I’m looking forward to next year.”