Playing against Durango High School for the final time in his storied career, Montezuma-Cortez High School senior Teagan Whiteskunk was not about to let the rival Demons walk out of his home gym with a victory.
The shooting guard, who has endeared himself to Panthers fans with his sharpshooting style, put on a clinic and scored a game-high 26 points as M-CHS rolled to a convincing 64-45 victory over the Demons.
“We have never lost a game to these guys since our seventh grade year,” Teagan Whiteskunk said. “My brother, (Bracken Whiteskunk), never beat them. It feels good.”
While Whiteskunk’s scoring outburst served as the central storyline in latest rendition of one of the Southwest’s longest standing rivalry games, the Panthers victory would not have been possible absent an impressive transition attack that led to several easy layups.
After a slow first quarter that ended with Durango leading 7-6 and featured numerous missed shots on both sides, the Panthers offense got going thanks to a shooting outburst by Whiteskunk that included three 3-pointers and 13 total points during a second quarter that ended with M-CHS leading 29-17.
“I liked the way that (Whiteskunk) was moving without the ball tonight,” M-CHS head coach Michael Hall said. “We’ve been working on that because guys faceguard him because they know he is a scorer. To see him penetrate and pass it and get the ball back and knock his shots down was great.”
Up by 12 points to begin the third quarter, M-CHS put its fans on edge by allowing the Demons to open the quarter on a 7-0 run that was keyed by five straight points by Martin Cuntz. After a timeout by Hall, the Panthers defense came alive and allowed just nine points over the final 6:42 of the quarter.
“We just had to keep the tempo and use our speed and athleticism,” M-CHS senior Titus Jackson explained. “We have some good shooters on this team and we have to use all of our advantages.”
Leading 44-33 to begin the fourth quarter, the Panthers maintained their intensity thanks in large part to a spirited home crowd that emitted loud cheers every time their team scored and booed every questionable call.
Especially in tune with the crowd was Jackson, who continually attacked the lane and scored over less athletic Durango defenders who seemingly had no answer for the M-CHS senior’s explosive first step.
“It felt great to have all the (fan) support,” Jackson said. “They set the tone last year and it was great to have them show out again this year. We have great community support.”
As the clock ticked towards zero and the final buzzer drew near, M-CHS players high fived on their bench and the student section loudly chanted, ‘we believe that we will win.’ Once the final buzzer sounded, Whiteskunk and Jackson exchanged high fives and head coach Michael Hall exchanged handshakes with his assistant coaches.
“It’s a great win,” Hall said. “There are eight seniors that I have and they have been here four years. These boys who are standing right here are four year varsity players and they have never lost to Durango. It’s a big rivalry game and I’m just so proud of them.”
Joining Whiteskunk in the scoring column for M-CHS was Jackson, who scored 13 points, Keetch, who chipped in eight points, and Mark, who scored seven. Durango was led offensively by Cuntz, who scored 16 points, and Jordan Woolverton, who scored 12.