Durango girls play ‘OK’ in better loss to Montrose

Plenty of words almost described the Durango High School girls basketball team Friday night.

Better.

Inconsistent.

Decent.

Slow.

Improved.

“It was OK,” DHS head coach Nancy Smith said.

Spot on.

The Demons nearly doubled their point total from their first meeting with the Montrose Indians, but they still lost the Southwestern League rematch 54-38 on Friday night at DHS on senior night because of inconsistent defense and shooting.

For the first three quarters, the Indians dismantled Durango’s newly implemented zone defense with a drive-and-dish attack that played to Montrose’s superior size and took advantage of the Demons’ oft-perplexed rotation on the back side.

The Indians built a 45-20 lead on a 16-2 third quarter that was far too much for the Demons to overcome.

“That gave them most of their free layups,” said Durango’s Molly Barnes, daughter of Joe Barnes and Carol Cunefare.

Kala Keltz finished with 19 points for the Indians to lead all scorers. Emily Thorp added 12.

“Our energy just kind of waned,” Smith said.

This time around, though, at DHS, the Demons got plenty of chances to strike back.

On Friday, the Demons finally squashed the turnover bug that’s been buzzing around them for most of the season, limiting themselves to 13 turnovers, half of those coming in the first quarter.

They only had one in the final frame for three total in the second half.

“That was our best turnover rate so far this season, so that’s really good,” Barnes said.

“We didn’t turn over the ball, which means we got a lot more shots off,” said Jessi Sigillito, daughter of John and Laurie Sigillito.

Unfortunately for the Demons, most of those shots didn’t get much further than the rim.

Whereas the Indians collapsed the Demons’ zone defense possession after possession with their size and authoritative play, then took advantage of shots from the outside, the Montrose zone kept its shape like a memory-foam mattress.

“And we didn’t push it as much as we wanted to,” Smith said.

The Demons settled for jump shots for the first three quarters, often contested or from poor position and didn’t find much net.

Durango was 0-for-6 from beyond the 3-point arc in the first quarter. DHS hit just two 3s on about a dozen shots and scored just 19 points in the first half.

So the Montrose turnover bug got squashed, but the shooting miasma? Still infectious.

“And last time we played them, that happened, too,” Smith said of the Demons 11-percent shooting percentage the first time the teams met in January.

McCue led the Demons with 13 points, and Barnes scored eight for DHS (11-7, 4-5 SWL).

Both seniors were honored at halftime along with teammates Alyssa Montoya, Shanelle Bogus and Dominique Ward.

Six of McCue’s points came in the final quarter, which the Demons handily won with the game too far out of reach.

In that quarter, they scored 18 of their points and forced the Indians into five turnovers. The Demons finally figured out how to find space in the paint and pick solid shots.

“We were in a rush,” Sigillito said. “When we started to slow down and realized we could keep up with this team, we started to make our shots.”

With a game against Grand Junction marking the end of Durango’s regular season and SWL play at noon today at the DHS gymnasium and Durango’s playoff hopes at stake, Smith said those were good lessons to learn.

“With every test you take, you learn from it,” Smith said. “Teacher hands it back, and you take it home.”

jsojourner@durangoherald.com