Playing the Colorado cream is never easy. Playing the Colorado cream on the road is even more difficult.
For the second consecutive season, however, the Durango Demons' girls basketball team has done just that, challenged Highlands Ranch in the south Denver suburb.
In their first game of the new year and first game since their Webb Toyota championship loss Dec. 20 at Farmington, the Demons lost their first game of 2009 82-46 on Saturday at Highlands Ranch. Durango is 9-2 this season.
"We had moments of greatness," Demons coach Mary Psenda said.
"In the first first quarter, we came out and played hard," she said.
Durango led 18-12 after the first eight minutes, then surrendered 26 second-quarter points and trailed 38-26 at the half.
"Within one year, I believe we were down 50-12 at the half last year," Psenda said. "That's improvement there."
Durango, actually, trailed 51-12 at halftime of last year's game. Highlands Ranch defeated Durango 88-28 in that game.
"There was improvement," Psenda said.
"At times, we played together - we were clicking, and everything was working. At times, we weren't together, and you could see it."
The game was lost, Psenda said, in the third quarter.
"We didn't have a great third quarter. We were plagued by turnovers, and they made some adjustments to our press-breaker," she said.
"We didn't make the adjustments we needed to make."
Jenessa Burke scored a game-high 36 points for second-ranked Highlands Ranch.
Katerina Garcia scored 21 points for Durango, and Morgan Gurule scored 10 points in the loss.
"One step forward, two steps back," Psenda said.
"A game like this, to me, you go up to play and learn from this experience. A situation like this only makes you better. Generally when you play a team like this, it's at the end of the season, you lose, and your season is over. But we're just at the beginning, and when we go into league play we have a great opportunity to learn from this game.
"Whatever we can do to make this a better team," she said.
Durango will host Kirtland Central at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in just its second home game this season. The DHS boys will host Kirtland at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
"Nine games on the road," Psenda said of the Demons' road trip. "It's going to be nice to play at our own gym and not be the away team that gets screamed at all the time."