DHS wants to be best in the West

Both basketball programs will get just that chance this weekend

Who is the best on this year’s Western Slope?

The Durango High School basketball teams are out to prove its the Demons this weekend at their Class 4A district tournaments.

The boys (14-5) are the No. 1 seed and received a first-round bye, then will play the winner of No. 8 Montezuma-Cortez and No. 9 Battle Mountain at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.

The girls (11-8) also earned a first-round bye and the No. 4 seed at districts. They will play No. 5 Glenwood Springs at 3 p.m. Thursday at Grand Junction Central High School.

“The boys still got to prove we’re the No. 1 seed, the best team over here on the Western Slope,” DHS boys head coach Alan Batiste said.

That title would come with more than just bragging rights, too. It will have an effect on the state tournament seeding, which will be determined by MaxPreps.com and announced Sunday.

The Demons currently are ranked 10th in the Class 4A MaxPreps standings; the DHS girls are ranked 24th. The top 48 reach the state tournament.

“Our minimum goal is to go up and win at least one game and get to the states,” DHS girls basketball head coach Nancy Smith said. “Our maximum goal is to go up there and beat everybody and get a home game for the first round of the state playoffs.”

Batiste said his Demons would love a No. 4 seed for the playoffs but are looking for a No. 7 or better with a district tournament championship.

“We’ve got to win it just to show the board that we’re the No. 1 team over here,” Batiste said.

To do that, the DHS boys needs to execute, bouncing back from a buzzer-beating loss to Grand Junction on Saturday. The Demons executed well for 31 minutes, 40 seconds, Batiste said. It only took 20 seconds for the Tigers to come away with the win.

Defense will be the centerpiece of the Demons’ gameplan in Grand Junction, as it has been all season, but Batiste said his boys will need to convert staunch defense into scoring.

“On the offensive end, just taking our time with what the defense gives us,” he said. “Pushing the basketball and trying to get easy baskets.”

Either second-seeded Palisade (14-5) or third-seeded Eagle Valley (14-5), which could meet each other in Friday’s semifinal if they win their respective quarterfinals Thursday, could prove to be Durango’s biggest challenge if it reaches the Saturday-afternoon championship game at the college.

Batiste warned, however, that in postseason tournaments, every game is anybody’s game.

The Demons beat Palisade 50-43 in December but lost to No. 7 Montrose 45-44 in January, then needed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force overtime for a 58-48 win over the Indians on Friday night.

“Anything can happen,” Batiste said.

The girls, meanwhile, are excited to go up against more comparable foes than their difficult Southwestern League, which combines Class 4A and Class 5A competition, where the Demons were “in the middle of the pack, so our wins and losses were fairly lopsided,” said Smith, whose Demons finished 4-6 in the SWL.

“This will be a chance to see some teams that we match up well with and test ourselves,” she said. “Maybe have some nail-biters.”

She said a single win in the tournament, which guarantees each team three games, should be sufficient to secure a spot in the state playoffs.

Glenwood Springs, with its higher-powered offense, will be Durango’s first test, and Smith said the Demons plan to lock up the opposing Demons with scrappy defense.

“We’ll sick our most tenacious defensive players on their highest scorers,” Smith said.

A win there likely will pit Durango against No. 1 seed Montrose at 6 p.m. at Colorado Mesa in the semifinals. The Indians already have beaten the Demons twice this year – 62-20 in January and 54-38 on Friday.

Smith picked out Montrose as her girls biggest challenge, but if the Demons ratchet down their defensive play, take care of the ball on offense and make well-selected shots, she said they can pick up the win, then a title in the 1 p.m. championship game Saturday at the college.

The Southwestern League/Western Slope Class 4A District Tournament started Tuesday with play-in games.

heraldsports@durangoherald.com