Seeking a blowout before Sunday's State Tournament Selection Show, the Durango High School girls got their wish, coasting to a 64-40 win over rival Montezuma-Cortez High School.
The Demons, playing in front of a rowdy Whalen Gymnasium crowd on the Fort Lewis College campus, received their usual contributions from Katerina Garcia and Neely Surmeier - mixed with a dash of Aspen McKeever's best - to pummel the Panthers on Thursday night.
Garcia finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Surmeier had 13 and six, and McKeever scored 12 - seven of them consecutively at the start of the second half.
Tied at 8-8 after trading scores early, the Demons went on a 10-2 run, capped by four from Surmeier, who has become a focal point of head coach Mary Psenda's offense.
"She's come on really strong in the second half of the season," Psenda said. "I really think the girls have started looking at her a lot more."
The Demons survived a cold stretch from the field by making enough defensive stops to manage a 5-0 push and lead 28-18 at halftime.
Coming out of the break, McKeever stomped out any chances of a Cortez comeback.
First the sophomore hit a 3-pointer, then a jumper in the lane, then converted a Surmeier pass after the junior corralled a rebound and led the fast break with the grace of a point guard.
Psenda was proud of her sophomore sparkplug.
"She's young, and I think she's been learning all year long," Psenda said of McKeever. "They look like they're starting to work together, and she definitely fits into that puzzle."
And of Surmeier's newfound ballhandling skills?
"She's been dribbling the ball a lot more," Psenda said. "When Kat got injured, she kind of had to step up, and they all had to step up and handle the ball, so I think she's got that confidence now."
Surmeier credits her teammates with her increased presence during the second half of the season.
"I feel like the guards did well at looking inside. They started looking inside more, so that gave me the opportunity to shoot."
After McKeever's spurt, DHS held a commanding 18-point lead that was never again in question.
A night that started with all four Durango seniors on the floor (rare starts for Kaiti Singley and Brittany Bowman), ended with four freshmen (Maggie Reynolds, Abby Surmeier, Raquel Delgado and Brooke Milliet) getting the chance to show their wares in front of the big crowd.
"I think it means a lot to the girls. It's a fun setting, and it's exciting," Psenda said. "It does a lot for the young kids, as far as helping them get experience."
The Demons will be holding each others' sweaty hands Sunday during the selection show, which runs from 3 to 5 p.m. The tournament brackets will be posted on the CHSAA Web site (www.chssa.org) after the event.
Psenda thinks her girls have a good chance of getting the nod.
"We're 14-9. We were 14-8 last year, and we got a No. 6 seed, and we finished better in the league (this year), so I hope so," she said.
An impressive three-game homestretch that saw just one close loss to Southwestern League powers Montrose is exactly the finish Psenda was hoping for.
"That's what you want, is for your team to be playing its best basketball at the end of the year," she said.