Durango led 9-2 after one quarter after it had helped force 10 turnovers by Falcon and limited the visiting team to only four shot attempts in the opening eight minutes. Everything changed in the final three quarters.
No. 37 Falcon upset No. 28 Durango High School 38-30 on Wednesday night in the opening round of the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 4A girls basketball state tournament on the Demons’ home floor in Durango.
“They made it tough,” DHS head coach Tim Fitzpatrick said. “There was a stretch there early where I thought we really could have pushed the lead, but we missed some easy shots. Give them credit, their defense was tough. Maybe that had something to do with missing shots.”
Kilee Wood led Falcon with 16 points, as she sparked the team with seven points in the second quarter. Hannah Burg added 10 points, while Kayla Harkema scored seven with five in the second quarter.
Durango (11-13) was paced by senior forward Tayler Dossey, who finished with 10 points in her final game in a DHS uniform. She did all of her damage in the first half. Fellow senior Danielle Lee added nine points with four in the fourth quarter. DHS made only one 3-pointer in the game, a Kyle Rowland shot in the first quarter.
The Falcon Falcons (10-14) outscored Durango 36-21 in the final three quarters and rallied to tie the game at 19-19 at halftime. The Falcons then went on a 9-0 run to open the third quarter to take command of the game. DHS never got closer than six points the rest of the way.
Falcon traveled 585 miles for the game from east of Colorado Springs, as it opted to take Interstate 25 up to Denver before it took Interstate 70 through Grand Junction and then cut down to Moab and over to Durango rather than taking the shorter route over Wolf Creek Pass. The game had already been postponed one day because of snow and was the last first-round game to be played of the tournament. Falcon head coach Tarike Adams didn’t use the long bus ride as an excuse for the sluggish first quarter.
“We’ve been kind of having stinky quarters those first quarters,” Adams said. “The fact this is a big game for them, they had jitters. I have a young team. To try to calm them down early is kind of hard. We had a good second quarter, so the third quarter we were relaxed and good to go. Once you see the ball go in, the lid is off and we can put the ball in the basket.”
Falcon’s first quarter turnovers and traveling violations would continue the rest of the game with roughly 30 turnovers, though Falcon began to turn the Demons over in bunches after the first quarter and forced 25 DHS giveaways.
The Falcons committed to their 2-3 zone defense after originally wanting to play man defense. The zone made scoring inside difficult on the Demons in a game that saw plenty of contact and few shooting fouls. While Falcon was able to adjust to the game flow, the Demons were not.
Though Durango’s defense did enough to stay in the game, the inconsistent offense finally caught up to the Demons.
“Offense is a skill which you gotta practice,” Fitzpatrick said. “You gotta spend time with the ball in your hands. Having said that, yeah, we struggled offensively knocking shots down, and it came back to that tonight.”
DHS will lose three seniors in Dossey, Lee and Emma Hackett. A good chunk of the team will return next winter.
“I’m proud of my three seniors for leading this team and the journey this group has taken since June,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s been a huge shift and cultural change. The leadership of those three girls, I cant say enough about it. The younger ones, if they want to put time in, we’ll see what happens.”
The Falcons will advance to face No. 5 Evergreen (18-5), the two-time defending state champion, in the second round Friday after another long bus ride home from Durango.
“I had put the fear of God into them telling that we might not make the playoffs,” Adams said. “We play a tough schedule. Our conference is tough. Getting in was great. Then I told them, ‘We drove 11 hours to play for an hour and a half. It would really feel good to win. So, go out and play tough.’ They did that. We turned the ball over a lot, but that’s us being young. They did some really good things to get this win.”