For several years, the Durango Demons girls basketball team has dominated the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers.
While on some levels, the Jan. 30 matchup between the two teams was no different, the Panthers’ ability to remain close throughout the early stages of a 66-39 defeat signified that trends might be changing.
Leading the way for the Panthers during an extremely impressive first quarter that ended with the Cortez trailing 14-9 was sophomore Yannibah Bayles, who scored five points early on.
Also playing well for the Panthers during the first half was sophomore Simone Lopez, who, scoring several fast-break baskets during the second quarter, helped her team enter halftime trailing 29-22.
“In the first half, fast breaks kept us close,” said Lopez, who finished the game with nine points. “I was the outlet, and when they threw it down to me, we were able to get some easy shots.”
Things quickly went south for the Panthers in the third quarter however, as Cortez was outscored 14-7 in the frame.
“The defense plays really good on my end of the court,” said Panthers’ head coach John McHenry. “At halftime, we switch and communication breaks down. We just need that one leader who makes sure that everyone has their man accounted for.”
Even with the Panthers’ lacking communication however, the group showed marked improvements, scoring inside and out.
Especially impressive was the strong interior play of senior Abby Chupp and junior Chantel Manuel, who combined to create difficulties for the Demons down low. Chupp’s 10 total points represented a team high for the Panthers.
“That was our best offensive output,” said McHenry. “Our post players are starting to learn to drop step.”
The improvements were not enough for the young Panthers however, who, after being outscored 23-10 in the final quarter, returned to their home locker room with an 0-12 record.
Even with the lopsided defeat however, the Panthers were relatively pleased with their effort.
“We tried really hard,” said junior Savannah Jacket. “We’ll get them next time.”
Hoping to continue their improvements, the Panthers will next play at home against Newcomb on Feb. 1.