The Durango and Kirtland Central high school boys basketball teams are in two different positions.
Durango is in the process of replacing 11 seniors from last year’s team while Kirtland Central returned nearly everyone from last year’s quarterfinal squad, and when the two teams met Tuesday night, it was evident the continuity and experience of the Broncos was too much for the Demons to handle, as Kirtland Central cruised to a 60-39 victory.
The Broncos built an early lead by putting constant pressure on the Demons with a full-court press that trapped the ball handler every chance they could and forced numerous turnovers.
“The pressure has been on us from the start of the season, and they for sure had us scouted. They’ve seen us play two or three times already, but we’ve got to handle it better,” DHS head coach Alan Batiste said of the on-ball pressure. “It’s really the simple things. The jump stops, seeing the floor; it’s the little things we need to get better at.”
It wasn’t a particularly good start for either side, but the Broncos (6-1) figured things out first and built a 7-0 lead midway through the opening quarter. Durango (1-5) didn’t score its first points until 5 minutes, 10 seconds into the game and trailed 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The Demons stayed close to the Broncos through the first few minutes of the second quarter and trailed 21-16 midway through the quarter. But Kirtland Central got a defensive spark when Dowdy sent in a few subs and told them if they didn’t run the floor they’d be back on the bench.
The group didn’t get many chances to run the floor, as they forced three turnovers in a row in the Demons’ backcourt that turned into easy layups. Behind the defensive firestorm, the Broncos went on a 10-0 run before Durango scored in the closing seconds of the quarter and sent the game to halftime with Kirtland Central leading 31-18.
“I was very proud of those guys,” Kirtland Central head coach Brian Dowdy said of the play from the bench. “I was gonna sub them out, but I didn’t until the half. That’s something I’ve been talking to that group about. Some of them are seniors but don’t have much varsity experience. ... I’m ecstatic that some of those guys played the way they did, because some of them have been struggling.”
The Demons started the third quarter slowly, but unlike the first quarter, the Broncos didn’t. Durango didn’t score for the opening 3:36 of the quarter while Kirtland Central went on a 13-0 run to blow the game open. Kirtland Central went on to outscore the Demons 22-12 in the quarter and held a 53-30 advantage heading to the fourth.
Throughout the game, when the Demons did get a good look at the basket, their shots never seemed to fall. And coupled with the turnovers the Broncos’ press created, the Demons frustrations began to mount.
“Mentally they have to prepare themselves for that adversity,” Batiste said. “But overall, we have to give ourselves a chance to score the basketball. There were too many times we didn’t even get to the volleyball line. I told the guys we have to give ourselves a chance to score, because when you have three or four turnovers in a row you never get to shoot the basketball and it’s tough to get into a rhythm.”
Both teams struggled to score in the fourth quarter, as they kept the starters on the bench with the game already decided.
All but two Broncos scored in the game, with Jaben Haws and Jariah Setzer leading the way with 11 points each.
Cullen Robinette and Chase Summers led Durango with seven points each.
Durango will play Telluride (0-4) on Friday in Telluride.