IGNACIO – For all of the focus on big men Al Hurworth of Durango and Cortez’s Cordell Baer, it was the Panthers’ guards ability to drive to the basket that helped them remain undefeated (9-0) as they held a steady lead throughout en route to a 56-38 win against DHS on Saturday afternoon at the Southwest Classic at Ignacio High School.
“Big Al and Cordell delivered what we expected them to,” said Montezuma-Cortez head coach Mike Hall. “They’re both athletic and bruisers down low, but when Al got in foul trouble early on, we knew we had to keep attacking the basket. If Cordell wasn’t there, then Jens (Jorgensen) was there to clean everything else up. Our guard play is always great, and they’re hard to stop, especially when they get rolling.”
The Demons (7-6) saw a steady diet of Cortez’s guard play early on, as Michael Diaz scored the first four points of the game for the Panthers, while Durango did not get on the scoreboard until midway through the quarter. Cortez led 17-6 after the first quarter.
Durango’s offense was limited to jump shots and did not pick up until midway through the second quarter. Hurworth made the most of the few looks he did get inside, but he finished with only seven points and all came in the first half.
While Hurworth was aggressive on the defensive end, it cost him as he picked up three fouls, as the Panthers attacked him and forced him to sit out for key stretches in the second and third quarters.
While the Demons were down, they climbed back into the game behind freshman Anthony Flint, who scored a team-high 11 points. In addition to corralling a few rebounds, his 3-point heave before the halftime buzzer saw the Demons down seven at 26-19.
“That 3-pointer right before the buzzer was huge for us, and we had the energy and momentum to keep it up,” said DHS head coach Alan Batiste. “The game was right there for the taking, but, in that second half, we couldn’t find the consistency for stops or get our shots to fall.”
In the third period, Cortez scored the first five points and was able to control the glass. DHS got it within eight points late in the quarter with two consecutive steals, but it would not get closer from there.
With Hurworth in foul trouble, the Demons turned to their other two big men, Esai Gomez and Martin Cuntz, and they struggled to replace Hurworth on the offensive end, as they combined for a total of five points. The Demons were outscored 13-6 in the frame.
“I’d have to take a little bit of the blame on the defensive end because we switched things up and let Durango back into it in the third quarter,” Hall said. “It wasn’t working, so we went back to what we were originally running, and that seemed to work a lot better.”
Hurworth fouled out at the end of the third quarter. Durango’s other leading scorer, Cullen Robinette, also fouled out, with one point.
Teagan Whiteskunk scored 10 for the Panters, while Titus Jackson had a team-high 11 points. Baer had nine points.
On Friday, Montezuma-Cortez pushed the pace in defeating Ignacio, 70-54.
The Panthers (7-0) took advantage of several second chances and had plenty of offensive rebounds in its win over host Ignacio in the second game of the four-game Southwest Classic.
In a game in which the Bobcats (2-5) never led, the Panthers controlled the glass and offensive chances from the opening tipoff.
“It was nice to see because we’re a bit out of sync right now with Christmas break and everything, and to see that effort tonight was great,” said Hall. “At halftime, we made the adjustments we needed to, and it helped us stay composed when they got it within six points early in the third. But, from there, it was all about our upperclassmen and big men stepping up for us.
“From there, it was all about pushing the tempo,” he said.
Both teams begin league play this week. DHS hostd Fruita Monument at 7 p.m. Friday, and Cortez hosts Pagosa Springs on Friday before traveling to Bayfield at 3 p.m. Saturday at BHS for a key 3A Intermountain League clash.