The Telluride boys basketball team did all it could to stop Durango High School’s six-foot-five senior forward Al Hurworth in the second quarter on Thursday night at DHS, but once he got going, there was little it could do.
Durango’s “Big Al” finished with a game-high 20 points, including 10 in the second quarter, and helped lift the Demons to a 45-30 win in the home-opener to earn their fifth consecutive victory.
“Al is such a hard worker for us and really crashed the boards hard tonight,” said DHS head coach Alan Batiste. “He gets his points off of his hard work, simply. He’s not going to be doing Kareem Abdul-Jabar-type moves or hook shots; he just simply works hard.”
Durango needed its big man, particularly when its offense was struggling to get going. The Demons went 0-for-10 from beyond the arc in the first half and virtually every basket came from a close-range jump shot or a post play from its frontcourt.
“We weren’t hitting our jump shots in the first half, there,” Hurworth said. “We knew they were going to fall and we had to keep up our game in the post, and I think that’s what kept us going. Our defense stepped up when we needed to there and we finally took the lead, and from there, it was all about playing solid defense, which we did. Holding a team to 30 points says a lot.”
While the Demons (7-4) were finally able to pull away in the second half, it was because they shut down Telluride (4-3, 1-1 San Juan Basin League) and its big men. Kaden Katz came out firing for the Miners, as he had eight of his team’s 16 points in the first half. Durango did not take the lead for good until the final minute of the second quarter, and led 20-16 at halftime. However, in the second half, Katz was a non-factor and scored just two points the rest of the game. Miners head coach Ryan Patrick said Durango’s size was the difference.
“We came out with no fire in the third quarter and we played like we were down 20,” Patrick said. “And then we lost by somewhere around 20, and I think you can chalk it up to their size. In the first half, we played really well offensively and I told the kids in the locker room to box out their big guys, but we were unable to do that.
“Going up against a team that has three or four guys at six-foot-three or taller is really tough to defend, especially as a 2A school. We just don’t have the height to keep with them, and that’s what ultimately was the difference. Durango crashed the boards like crazy there in the second half, and we just didn’t have an answer.”
In the third quarter, the Demons outscored Telluride 15-10, and eventually 25-14 by the end of the game, and every time it appeared the Miners would go on a run, Durango answered.
After failing to connect from beyond the arc, DHS finally found its shooting stroke, as it made three 3-pointers in the quarter, including two from senior guard Clay Seibel, his only two baskets of the night.
“In the second half, we finally got our 3’s to fall,” Batiste said. “Finding our groove and being patient really helped us down the stretch. In that second half, you saw disciplined, structured basketball, and we weren’t rushing our shots like we were in the first half. Getting back to the basics and slowing our tempo down, we worked the inside-out game really well.”
For all the emphasis on “Big Al”, one player that had a rare off night was senior captain Cullen Robinette, who twisted his ankle midway through the first quarter after he dove for a loose ball and had to leave the game briefly. He would return but was never able to fully recover his offensive game, as the senior finished with four points and committed four personal fouls.
“Sometimes when your captain has an off-night, you need other guys to deliver,” Batiste said. “I thought Jordan Woolverton was incredible tonight. He only had two points but had 13 rebounds and played really solid defense for us.”
The leading scorer for DHS was Hurworth, who finished with 20 points, while fellow senior guard Lance Kemp chipped in eight. Katz was the leading scorer for Telluride, as he had 10 points, while Weston Smith and Carlo Pine each had five points.
For all the stats that showed up in the score book, the only one that mattered to Hurworth was the final score, which kept the winning streak alive.
“Coming off of that four-game losing streak only to win five straight, it’s a really nice feeling and we needed it,” Hurworth said. “There were flashes of last year during that two-week period, but we didn’t panic. That is definitely different in this year’s team. We just got back to the drawing board and really focused on our offensive game, slowed things down, trusted our teammates and picked it up on the defensive side of the ball. So it’s really good to go into the break with something to think about.”
Durango will have two weeks off before squaring off against Bayfield on Friday, Jan. 4, in the Southwest Classic at Ignacio High School with the time to be determined.