Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
Fruita Monument jumped out early on Durango High School in the last matchup, even though the Demons eventually pulled out a win.
On Friday, Durango returned the favor – only the Demons didn’t let the Wildcats even sniff victory.
The Durango boys basketball team opened the game on an 8-0 run, closed the first half on a 15-3 outburst, then held off the Wildcats 53-42 at DHS.
After the Wildcats pulled ahead 15-9 to start the teams’ first matchup this year, Durango scored early and often Friday to lead 17-8 after the first quarter.
Fruita Monument pulled within five at 21-16, but then, too, the Demons had an answer, finishing the half on a 15-3 run and pushing said run to 17-3 and a 38-19 lead early in the third quarter.
Durango forward Isiah Mayberry said coming out swinging after a few slow starts in league play this season was critical.
“It was good to throw the first punch. ... We just kept progressing,” said Mayberry, son of George and Tonya Mayberry.
DHS head coach Alan Batiste said containing the Wildcats early was a key morale booster in a game that wasn’t quite as close as the final score indicated.
“They jumped out on us 9-0 when we were up there, so it felt great for the boys to gain confidence seeing that they’re up big, going on a run. It helps out when you throw the first punch, and we’ve been asking them to do that since Day 1,” Batiste said.
Although they lost the turnover battle 17-12, the Demons once again turned to their defense to lead the way. The Wildcats shot just 34 percent from the field and hit just 4 of 14 from 3-point range.
“Defense won us that game, I feel,” Mayberry said. “Defense doing their job opens it up for our offense to score.”
Durango (11-4, 4-2 Southwestern League) was more judicious with its 3-point attempts, burying 3 of 7 chances, with Ty Elliott, who led all scorers with 17 points, going 3 of 6 from beyond the arc.
Overall, the Demons shot a blistering 58 percent from the field, making 21 of 36 shots in one of their most efficient offensive performances of the year.
“I was just trying to help out my team, being in the open spot,” said Mayberry, who scored 11 points.
Durango pulled ahead of the Wildcats (8-12, 2-5 SWL) 45-26 after three quarters. Fruita Monument was able to work its way back into the game late as DHS got a bit complacent with a lead that once had been as big as 22 points, committing nine of its 17 turnovers in the final stanza.
Batiste said that while he’s not thrilled to lose ground, he’s happy his players understood what went wrong in the final quarter.
“That’s just basketball. ... Every coach would say they hate being up 20. You’d rather have that game where you’re up eight because your team has that sense of urgency,” he said.
“The boys will learn from it. And they all came up to me at the end, ‘Coach, I know.’”
Durango did well to overcome foul trouble to starting forward Nick Hamlin. Trent Andrews pulled in six rebounds, to go with Mayberry’s 11 points to help pick up the slack.
“They stepped up big time. They had some key rebounds. ... And if they didn’t get the rebounds, they had the key box out on their bigs,” Batiste said.
Helping matters, too, were 11 rebounds from guard Nate Atencio and eight points from Dane Mestas.
Fruita Monument was led by big man Spencer Fair’s 13 points and seven rebounds. Dylan Row added nine points.
The season sweep over Fruita Monument complete, Durango will turn its attention on Grand Junction Central at 1:30 p.m. today as the Demons try to up their winning streak to three.
The Demons will play at longtime rival Montezuma-Cortez on Tuesday night.