Durango High School girls basketball head coach Tim Fitzpatrick briefly hesitated when thinking about the last time his team hosted a playoff game.
“A couple years back we had a second-round game at home because we were a top-16 seed,” Fitzpatrick said. “Other than that, we’ve mostly been on the road this time of year.”
It was a 2017 second-round matchup against the No. 48-seed Thompson Valley, and the Demons ended up winning by 26 points and went on to the Sweet 16 that year.
The Demons will be hoping for another deep run when they open the 2019 postseason at the Demon Dome on Tuesday night. They grabbed the No. 28 seed when the Colorado High School Activities Association’s Class 4A state playoff bracket was announced on Sunday, and will take on No. 37 Falcon, based in Falcon just east of Colorado Springs.
Durango (11-12, 3-5 5A/4A Southwestern League) is currently in the midst of a four-game winning streak, which followed up a six-game skid that nearly derailed its playoff hopes.
“Credit to the girls for getting to this point,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s a really a reward for this group of kids, and the attitude and effort that they’ve had all season has been fantastic. During the streak, they didn’t hang their heads or get down on each other, they just kept pushing. To now host a first-round home game really is a tribute to their hard work.”
The win streak started in an upset over No. 8 Montrose and on senior night on Friday against Grand Junction, it was the upperclassmen who led the way in a win that all but locked up the seed placement.
“It goes back to the girls themselves, and on Friday, you really saw that,” Fitzpatrick said. “The defense stepped up down the stretch and our offense came to life, as well. They’ve been playing for each other. ... I look at this season as a whole, and despite our record, there were only a few games where I looked at it and said, ‘that team is better than us.’”
Senior captain Tayler Dossey leads DHS in scoring with 9.7 points per game, while Maddy McManus is at 5. Emma Fitzgerald’s stellar defensive effort has been a huge help, as well.
The Falcons (9-14, 4-10 5A/4A Twin Peaks League) have their own two-headed monster with Hannah Burg averaging nearly 15 points per game at 14.6, while Kilee Wood almost is in double-figures at 9.4 per game.
If the Demons win on Tuesday, they will take on the two-time defending 4A state champions in Evergreen, who drew the No. 5 seed.
Fitzpatrick was only focused on the task at hand, and saw a lot of similarities between the teams.
“They’ve shown that they can score this season,” Fitzpatrick said. “They’ve had some good competition against Front Range teams, and so have we. They’ve done well in a tough league and so have we. Honestly, it is an even matchup and think we’re pretty similar. The girls have seen a variety of different styles of play, and they’ve been exposed to a lot of different things this season and have handled them all well. It’ll just come down to who wants it more, really. It’s win-or-go-home for a reason.”
Fitzpatrick understands how much a home-court advantage helps in the playoffs, but particularly in the early rounds.
“Any time you can get a home game in the playoffs, it’s huge,” Fitzpatrick said. “But sometimes, it’s being on your court that you practice on every day, or seeing similar faces in the crowd, it can ease the nerves a bit. A playoff atmosphere is unique, and when you factor in the game play, it really is special.”
Durango tips off against Falcon at 6 p.m. Tuesday at DHS.
“We’re excited that we get to play at home,” Fitzpatrick said. “We know what lies ahead in the bracket, but you can only play one game at a time. In the mean time, we’ll be preparing hard for Tuesday.”