On the biggest stage of the season, a freshman stepped up in the biggest way for the Durango High School girls basketball team.
With 1.1 seconds remaining and down one point, DHS freshman Maddy McManus stepped to the free-throw line and converted both free throws with a high-arching rainbow shot that sent the Demons to a 39-38 victory against the previously unbeaten Ignacio Bobcats on a neutral floor at Whalen Gymnasium on the campus of Fort Lewis College in Durango.
The Class 4A Demons trailed 38-34 when Hilda Garcia was fouled on a 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds to go. The senior, who previously attended Ignacio before transferring to Durango her junior year, sank the first two free throws before DHS head coach Tim Fitzpatrick called a timeout.
“He told me to knock them down and we’d get straight into our defense,” Garcia said.
Garcia sank the third free throw to make it a one-point game.
On the Bobcats’ inbounds play, the ball was knocked loose, and in the scrum for the ball, a whistle sounded for a foul on McManus.
“That’s the type of player Maddy is,” Fitzpatrick said. “She makes a defensive play and gets fouled here and puts the free throws in. That’s the type of competitor she is. The stage wasn’t too big for her.”
Garcia scored the Demons’ first six points of the game to help DHS (9-10) to an early lead, but the Bobcats (13-1) began to settle down on offense and closed the first quarter on a 7-1 run for a 9-6 lead.
The Durango defense held the Bobcats to one made field goal in the second quarter that didn’t come until about 30 seconds remaining.
Even with one made basket in the second, the Bobcats took an 18-15 lead into halftime after they made 7-of-7 free-throw attempts in the quarter.
The Bobcats opened the third quarter on an 11-0 run and kept the Demons scoreless for the first 5:10 of the quarter. Ignacio outscored the Demons 16-4 in the quarter and took a 34-19 lead into the final eight minutes.
Ignacio senior Avionne Gomez led the Bobcats’ attack with four made 3-pointers in the quarter.
“I noticed some nerves the first half of the game,” said Gomez, who scored all 14 of her points in the third quarter.
“Once halftime was over, I told the girls, ‘This is our half, let’s play our hardest.’ And that’s what we did for the third quarter.”
Garcia provided Durango’s only made field goal of the third quarter with a long 3 with 1:07 to go.
Garcia rallied the Demons back in the fourth quarter and connected on back-to-back 3s that cut Durango’s deficit to 36-31 with about three minutes remaining.
“We got fearful,” Ignacio head coach Trae Seibel said of the fourth-quarter collapse. “We got fearful of the big stage and fearful of our ability to win. Durango, with the hunger they’ve got, they capitalized. They capitalized and ran with it.”
Ignacio’s Morgan Herrera drained a jumper from the right elbow with 1:12 to go that put the Bobcats up 38-31. But the jumper was answered with a 3 from Emma Hackett that kept the Demons within reach and set up the free throws from Garcia and McManus.
Garcia finished the night with 23 points and five made 3-pointers. Hackett added 10 points in the win.
Herrera matched Gomez’s 14 points for the Bobcats.
Durango (4-1 5A/4A Southwestern League) will host Fruita Monument (19-2, 6-0 SWL) on Friday, while the Bobcats (8-0 2A/1A San Juan Basin League) will play at Telluride (4-11, 4-4 SJBL).