A quick succession of Montrose points in the third quarter may have saved the girls basketball team from losing yet again to Durango.
With the Lady Indians trailing by five points early in the second half, the hosts scored their two-pointer of the third period thanks to a Caraline Burwell layup before Kennadie Minerich stole the inbound pass and got the basket to go.
This kickstarted a 13-2 run for the home team as the Lady Indians (16-4; 4-1 in Southwestern League) never trailed the rest of the way, winning a close, 39-35 game Saturday.
When Montrose scored those four quick points, the players knew momentum was swinging in their direction, Minerich said.
“Just one basket gets us lifted,” she said. “... Going on big runs like that gets us pumped up and gets us going for the rest of the game.”
Although Durango was playing in its second game of a back-to-back, the Demons looked more energetic early on than the Lady Indians, coach Steve Skiff said. But it wasn’t until the second half when Montrose kicked it into gear.
“We told them at halftime: We had to take it to them. They were the ones who played last night, not us,” Skiff said. “That sequence of basket, steal, basket got the crowd going and it was good energy. That’s what we needed at the time.”
Heading into this contest, Montrose and Durango had a split head-to-head record. The Demons previously defeated the Lady Indians in a non-league game at the Aztec Tournament last month. But Montrose got its revenge against Durango exactly a week before Saturday’s game.
“Durango is always tough competition, especially since we played them three times,” Minerich said. “They also play particularly well in the second half of league (play) so this is a big win for us.”
Burwell had a team-high 12 points, Minerich added 11 along with five rebounds and four steals while Josie Eccher had six, which included a few clutch late free throws.
“That was a good win for us,” Skiff said. “Anytime you can sweep Durango in league play, that’s a good thing.”
This was a game in which Montrose had to battle adversity early in the fourth quarter. Starting forwards Burwell and Ally Nichols fouled out in the final period, which meant reserve Jaycie Casebolt and Hadley Greiner, who mostly plays at the guard position, had to fill in those roles.
Despite their smaller stature, the two are both listed at 5’8 and were replacing ones near or at 6’0, Casebolt and Greiner snagged key offensive and defensive rebounds late.
Skiff said players like that are usually the unsung heroes as their contributions don’t end up in the stat sheet.
“Those are the hustle plays,” he said. “I thought we won the hustle plays today. And we got big rebounds when we needed to.”
Neither team got much of a lead in the opening quarter. The biggest one was a three-point Durango advantage, but Montrose managed to tie it at 7-7 at the end of the frame.
The Lady Indians scored the first basket of the second quarter but they wouldn’t have another lead until midway through the third period.
The Demons would go on to outscore the hosts the rest of the way 10-5, leading as much as five. But before halftime, Minerich connected on the team’s only 3-pointer of the game to keep the contest close.
Still, Durango led 17-14 at the break.
Similar to the second quarter, but with both teams in reversed roles, Durango knocked in the first basket of the third frame before Montrose went on a big run.
The home squad took the lead for good after Eccher’s And-1 play.
Montrose outpaced Durango, 15-5, in the period as the hosts led, 29-22, at the end of the quarter.
To start the fourth period, Montrose notched their biggest lead of the game at nine following an early basket, but then Durango started chipping away at the big hole. The Demons went on a 9-2 run, cutting the deficit to 34-31.
But Montrose’s free-throw shooting helped the Lady Indians carve out the win. The team’s last five points all came from the charity stripe thanks to the aforementioned Eccher, as well as, Minerich and Greiner.
After this game, the Lady Indians will have some rest before their next SWL contest. But other than healing “some bumps and bruises,” Skiff said, the team will be ready to battle Grand Junction Central at 6 p.m. on Friday, at home.