Fully knowing foul-limited Durango High junior Mason Rowland was about to be unleashed upon his Lady Bobcats after halftime, Ignacio head coach Tony Gomez shouted out the most basic summary possible, explaining how victory over Durango could still be had.
After all, his players had managed to overcome DHS’ 7-0 run to start Mountain Top Classic’s girls’ fifth-place game on Saturday. Then Ignacio all but offset a later 8-0 spree to enter intermission trailing just 23-20.
“Strategy’s out the window!” Gomez declared as the Lady ’Cats huddled in a timeout with 5:40 remaining in the third quarter, and Durango having rebuilt its lead to a more stable 31-21 after a Rowland take to the hole. “It’s all (about) heart!”
But even though such internal fortitude subsequently presented itself via six points by posts Solymar Cosio and Harmony Reynolds, then junior Laci Brunson’s corner 3-pointer beginning the fourth quarter, IHS would get no closer than 37-30. Rowland combined with freshman Katelyn Sheppard on an 11-0 burst – increasing the Demons’ lead to 48-30 with just 1:11 left when Reynolds, a junior, fouled out of their mutual three-day La Jara stay.
Brunson would cash another triple, but Rowland would polish off a 49-33 victory with a free throw – giving her a game-high 24 points despite 2-of-6 accuracy from the charity stripe. With 6-of-6 work at the foul line, Sheppard would total a most-vital 13 points in support, while all of senior Sydney Flores’ eight points came during a second quarter which began with Durango (2-2 overall, 0-0 4A/5A Southwestern) down 13-11 after a Reynolds hoop with just 4.8 ticks left in the first.
“A huge thing going out there was to try to get post touches,” Flores said, “and cut off those, make opportunities for the guards outside. That really helped us increase our intensity, and it kind of broke down – a little – the defense of the other team.”
“We all needed an energy boost,” said Rowland, who was named all-tournament along with junior Riley Campbell, who was cleared to play this winter after transferring from Bayfield. “Sydney and I can work together really well; we find each other, I give her the ball, I cut off her … and she has great post moves and can work off that. But a lot of people stepped up today and everyone did her part; that’s why we won.”
“I thought our bench … when Mason went out with two fouls, did a great job of keeping their composure – and keeping the game close,” said DHS head coach Tim Fitzpatrick. “So kudos to the kids on the bench.”
Named All-MTC, Ignacio senior Avaleena Nanaeto equaled Reynolds’ team-high eight points in defeat, with four coming late in the first quarter via a clutch three-point make plus free throw, resulting in the contest’s first tie at 11-11.
Following two go-ahead Sheppard free throws with 4:26 left in the second quarter, Fitzpatrick took a 30-second timeout and undoubtedly insisted the time had come, with Durango up 15-13, to push the pace. Back-to-back Flores baskets inside would soon increase DHS’ advantage to 21-13 before the Lady ’Cats (1-2, 0-0 2A/1A San Juan Basin) closed out the half on a 7-2 run keyed by a surprise trey from freshman Marissa Olguin.
“We started out a little rough but we cleaned it up, exactly what we needed to do,” Rowland said. “Our defensive intensity, what we’ve always been known for … makes our offense, and so all of us were working hard. We were going to seal this game on the boards and in the third quarter that helped so much.”
Campbell, who was the only other Demon to score, finished with four points. Brunson booked six for IHS, with sophomores Cosio and Darlyn Lechuga-Mendoza each registering four.
“I’m just proud of our girls for just methodically going through it and pulling away at the end to where it wasn’t close,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s always fun to be able to play our neighbors; Durango, Ignacio people were like, ‘We could have played this game closer to home!’ But Ignacio’s girls have a tradition-rich program, they’re competitive, and so it was a great game for us.”
“I think a B-plus,” said Flores, grading the Demons’ overall tournament performance. “At the beginning … we didn’t have as much effort as we had potential, but we definitely ended very strong, showed everyone what Durango is.”
Durango will next travel to 4A Pueblo County’s Lady Hornet Invitational, with three-day play inside the Hornet Nest beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday against 5A Palmer of Colorado Springs. DHS will then clash with PCHS at at 6:30 p.m. Friday, then face 4A Aurora Gateway at 10:3... Click here to read full article