It was a little too close for comfort for Durango High School.
After leading 42-31 after three quarters, the DHS girls basketball team watched as turnovers keyed a surge for Montezuma Cortez High School, one that cut the lead to just 48-46 with 1:16 left to play.
But after letting the last meeting between the two rivals slip away, the Demons werent about to do the same on Thursday. Hannah Rossi pulled down a key rebound, the Demons forced a double dribble, and Aspen McKeever hit a long, if somewhat unwise 3, and DHS held on for a 54-46 victory over the Panthers on senior night at Durango High School.
I thought we shared the basketball well in that third quarter, DHS head coach Klint Chandler said. We moved the ball; we attacked the basket. And then we come to the fourth quarter and go 180 degrees the other way.
McKeever capped an 18-point performance in likely her last game in a DHS uniform with a 3 from about 4 feet beyond the arc in front of the DHS student section.
Leading just 49-46 with 29 seconds to play, Chandler was hoping to run some clock, but his senior had other plans, hitting a dagger and letting her hand linger in the air a bit longer than usual in a final farewell to Durangos foes from Cortez.
That was just kind of a stick-it this is how we play; were going to finish, McKeever said.
Shes lucky it went in. Thats what I told everybody on the bench, Chandler said.
If turnovers helped key an 8-1 run that allowed MCHS back into the contest, strong ball control by Durango and sloppy play from Cortez allowed the lead to balloon in the third quarter.
After the teams went into the half squared at 23, DHS (9-12, 3-7 Southwestern League) used a 15-0 run to outscore the Panthers 19-8 in the frame, aided by seven Cortez turnovers.
We had some critical turnovers at key points in the game that just really put us in a hole, MCHS head coach Justine Bayles said. In the first half, the girls really kept track of McKeever. ... In the second half, we lost track of her just a little, for that little moment, and she just did her thing. And she does it quite well.
The run helped Durango overcome a 38-27 disadvantage in rebounds. Kelia Yanito pulled down 13 for Cortez, and Sydney Bayles added 11 to go with her team-leading 12 points.
But an active Durango defense, keyed by guards Rossi and Raquel Delgado, held Yanito and her twin sister Keely Yanito to just 11 combined points after the pair torched DHS for 35 in the meeting at Cortez.
We changed defenses. Hannah and Raquel had to guard their tails off, Chandler said. They had to guard the twins the whole time, so that was our deal. We had to slow them down.
All in all, it was strong defense and timely scoring that allowed McKeever (parents Carol and Dave), Rossi (parents Carla and Alex) and Kaylyn LeClaire (parents Mary and Bruce) to walk out as victors, savoring one last win over their rivals to the west in front of a crowd plentifully stocked with their peers.
Obviously the seasons been up and down. It was just really nice to go out on a positive note, McKeever said.