The Durango boys' basketball team made history last winter.
Just not the kind the team wanted.
Losing to regional rivals Bayfield, Montezuma-Cortez, and Ignacio during the 2017-18 season's first half was hard enough. Nobody at the time seemed able to recall when DHS last logged such a trifecta at all - before a late-season road loss at Pagosa Springs all but sewed up a 4-18 campaign in which the Demons went a combined 0-6 against their regional in-state rivals. PSHS had also won before Christmas Break; M-CHS prevailed twice after.
Times have certainly changed for Alan Batiste's boys from Durango, who will look to take some revenge when the '18-19 itinerary resumes this weekend, Jan. 4-5, at the 2019 Southwest Colorado Classic. The tournew was hosted last year by BHS, and this year it will be at IHS.
Already having blown away last season's win total, Durango will face Bayfield at 5 p.m. Friday standing 7-4 (0-0 4A/5A Southwestern) and having won five straight dates, the most recent a 45-30 verdict over 2A Telluride back on Dec. 20. The Miners dipped to 4-3 overall as the Demons' seventh foe going into the holiday break at .500 or better (DHS' opponents to date are a combined 52-42, a .553 winning percentage).
Looking to get back to even or better under first-year coach Klint Chandler, BHS (3-4, 0-0 3A Intermountain) will look to end a three-game slide prolonged by a 77-66 home loss Dec. 15 to 5A Farmington. With contests so far against Englewood Kent Denver (currently 5-0), Blanding, Utah-based San Juan (7-2) and FHS (7-5), the up-and-down Wolverines have played the second-toughest schedule (opponents are a .474 27-30) of the attending squads. The Wolverines may or may not see the return of injured senior guard Keyon Prior at the Classic.
Averaging 19.8 points per game, with two outings of 30 and one of 26 already to his name, BHS senior guard Turner Kennedy will be a player to watch, while from all available information, DHS' 6'3" senior Cullen Robinette and 6'5" senior Al Hurworth each score more than 11 points per game.
Relieved to have stopped a four-game slide just before the holidays with a 73-55 win over 2A/1A San Juan Basin members Dove Creek, Chris Valdez's hosting Bobcats will enter the event 2-4 overall (1-1 SJBL). They will meet Montezuma-Cortez at 7 p.m. on Firday.
Off to their own impressive start and already halfway to equaling their 2017-18 win total, Mike Hall's Panthers (6-0, 0-0 Intermountain) last defeated SJBL team Mancos by 22 on Dec. 20, but scored their fewest points yet, with 66 for the game. M-CHS averages 80.8 per game.
Sophomore forward Bryce Finn currently leads the 'Cats with 15.7 points per game, while sophomore guard Triston Thompson averages 10.5. Booking 22.2 ppg, M-CHS junior guard Teagan Whiteskunk will be crucial to contain, as will senior double-double threat Cordell Baer (13.4 points, 12.2 rebounds).
Including SJHS, which they outgunned 82-76 back on Nov. 27 (Bayfield lost 75-58 to the Broncos on Dec. 14), M-CHS' enemies currently stand 20-27 (.425), while IHS' will begin the New Year 18-27 (.400) overall.
Saturday's Day 2 will be, for all practical purposes, "Rivalry Day" at the Classic, with Durango engaging former SWL nemesis Montezuma-Cortez at 3 p.m. and Bayfield battling Ignacio at 5 p.m. in a Pine River Valley clash of State Tournament qualifiers from last season in which the Wolverines finished 19-7 overall and the 'Cats 20-6.
Going 7-0 during the postseason, BHS completed a historic 5-0 run through the 32-team Class 3A bracket (M-CHS fell in the opening round) to win the school's first-ever state basketball championship, while IHS went 5-2 during their district-regional-State spree and finished sixth in 2A.
Durango, however, was unable to survive regular-season play and tied Grand Junction for last in the SWL, but placed beneath the Tigers by losing both home and away.
Junior-varsity action will also take place at the 2019 Classic, with M-CHS facing IHS on Day 1 at 5 p.m. in Ignacio's auxiliary gym, with DHS-BHS following at 7. On Day 2, the Bayfield and Ignacio JVs will collide at 3 p.m. inside the aux gym, with Durango's and Montezuma-Cortez's squaring off at 5.