BAYFIELD – Had the 2022 Four Corners Southwest Classic’s de facto third-place game lasted any longer Saturday, Durango likely would have fouled out down to their last Demon if it meant possibly defeating former 4A/5A Southwestern League rival Montezuma-Cortez.
After incredibly tipping in fellow senior Lincoln Clay’s missed last-second shot at the buzzer, tying the contest at 70-70 and sending it into overtime, Landon Roberts became the first of four Durango players to foul out during the extra period when he picked up his fifth personal with 2:30 left.
Clay would do likewise with 1:49 remaining, followed by junior Tyler Harms with 0:58 left and junior A.J. Folk with 0:19 to go. And with senior big Walter Stauffer having already fouled out with 2:23 left in the fourth quarter, Durango head coach Alan Batiste – whose roster was already minus five players when the tourney commenced the previous evening – could only watch in disbelief as the Panthers pulled away at the free-throw line in prevailing 84-74.
M-CHS junior guard Austin Wood, who had canned four three-pointers during regulation time, finished with 19 points after going a crucial 7-of-10 from the charity stripe in OT (during which the team went 12-of-22, finishing 22-of-43 overall). And also finishing the game playing with three personals, senior guard J.T. Carver sank six 3-pointers and went 4-of-8 from the foul line in racking up a career-high 32 points.
“Feels amazing, definitely,” said Carver, who hit three threes and totaled 17 points during a 59-48 loss Friday inside Bayfield High School Gymnasium to Ignacio. “We’ve always been pretty good rivals with Durango, and it’s good to get that (career-high) against a team like that.”
“Austin’s just smart. He knows what to do, we rely on him to be our point guard and do everything for us. And J.T., obviously, he’s a senior now and been in the (3A Intermountain) league for a while, knows what to do, and he’s just a good scorer,” head coach Michael Hall said.
“You know, we were down by six going into the fourth quarter, but we fought back and pulled out a win,” he said. “It’s just heart; these kids have it, they know what they need to do because we’re undersized, and they’re never going to quit.”
Having trailed Durango 18-14 after one quarter, 34-33 at halftime, then 54-48 through the third – after Demon junior guard Luke Wesley logged 11 of his team-high 26 points – the Panthers (3-4, 0-0 IML) went on a game-altering 11-0 run capped by three consecutive Isaak Lewis drives to the rim.
But the Panthers junior would foul out with 4:10 left in regulation, allowing Clay (11 points) to hit one free throw and finally get Durango (5-7, 0-0 SWL) restarted offensively, down 59-55. Clay would nail two more freebies with 2:36 left, at last re-tying the score at 59, but after Stauffer (8 points) departed 13 seconds later, Carver cashed a three and Panthers sophomore Miles Frost (6 points) swished two FTs – putting Montezuma-Cortez again up five and setting the stage for the teams’ wild finish.
“We get down on ourselves a lot when we’re down – we were down six going into the fourth quarter today – but we changed it up,” Carver said. “We had positive self-talk and came out with a win.”
“You know, we came in off Christmas break, and I think yesterday we were a little slow, couldn’t get any kind of rhythm going. But Ignacio’s really good,” said Hall. “Today we played hard; we came out and played our style of basketball, kept the pace up. Durango’s a lot bigger and a lot more physical than us, but we have heart; that’s what I preach to the boys.”
Freshman Tay Wheat came off Hall’s bench to contribute seven points, and senior Trinidad “L.T.” McDonnell chipped in eight.
Roberts and Harms each totaled nine points in defeat, while junior Zach Haber came off Batiste’s bench to score six.
Up next, Montezuma-Cortez will begin IML play hosting Centauri (7-0, 0-0 IML) Friday. Meanwhile, Durango’s SWL work begins Saturday at home versus Grand Junction, which stood 8-5 overall prior to visiting 3A Coal Ridge Tuesday.