Dane delivers for Demons
Mestas' big second half helps Demons win district crown
Overcoming a 9-2 deficit in the first quarter Saturday, Durango and Dane Mestas orchestrated a second-half comeback to win the Class 4A Southwestern/Western Slope League boys basketball district tournament championship 35-28 over Rifle at Brownson Arena.
The Demons (15-6) scored only two points in the first 10 minutes of the game. Once Terrance Trujillo hit a 3-pointer to break the cold streak, Durango coach Alan Batiste said the Demons were “over the hump.”
Rifle (17-4) led 14-9 at halftime, but Mestas scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half and 12 in the fourth quarter to pull away from Rifle. Mestas said he had faith the offense would eventually heat up.
“We knew we were playing good defense because they scored 14 points in the first half,” Mestas said. “We knew our shots were going to come even though we weren’t really hitting consistently. When we went into the locker room at halftime, we basically said that if (Rifle) doesn’t score more than 30 points, we’re going to win this game. We knew our defense was going to carry into our offense and we just really picked it up from there.”
Batiste said a mix of quality competition and a desire for a second chance at winning the tournament motivated the Demons. Last year, Palisade clubbed Durango 63-41 in the championship game.
“We worked hard last year at this tournament and when we came here some of our big scorers went down,” Batiste said. “The air was just lost in the room and we lost to Palisade by a big margin. The boys wanted to come back and represent, and we actually beat Rifle last year in the semifinals to get to the championship. It’s a championship that really means a lot to the program.”
For Rifle, Tanner Quick led the offense with 10 points. The senior big man also pulled down six offensive rebounds. Trent Brown, Rifle’s second-leading scorer, was limited to only four points.
Mestas said playing Grand Junction twice during the year was good defensive preparation for the championship game, citing similarities between Quick and Grand Junction post D.J. Wells, as well as Brown and Broderick Robinson.
Rifle coach Roger Walters said 14 turnovers in the second half hurt his team, adding playing SWL competition will prepare the Bears for the Class 4A playoffs.
“I thought all three of the games we played were really quality games,” Walters said. “We just didn’t quite execute in the second half of this game. We got what we deserved here. You can’t throw the ball around and chip paint off the wall.”
Palisade 63, Montrose 52: Zach Marengo scored 16 points and Marques Combs added 13 points with three 3-pointers to lead Palisade (14-9) past Montrose (9-13) in the third-place game at Palisade High School. Palisade took a double-digit lead during the second quarter and kept Montrose at arm’s length.
Palisade coach Brian Tafel said he was proud of the way the Bulldogs competed one day after a tough semifinal loss to Rifle.
“I’m really proud of my guys and the way they played,” Tafel said. “At this tournament, I mean, we played our best game of the season against Steamboat Springs, who is as a good as any team at this tournament. Offensively, I’d say we’re hitting our stride at the perfect time.”
Angelo Youngren led Montrose with 12 points and Ross Barney added 11 points.
Steamboat Springs 45, Delta 27: Steamboat Springs outscored Delta 16-5 in the first quarter to cruise to a fifth-place game win at Palisade High School. Nathan Depuy led the Sailors (17-6) with 13 points. Delta (11-12) was paced by Eian Baier’s seven points.