MONTROSE – After three pre-season tournaments and a handful of non-league games, the Montrose High School boys’ basketball team carried a 10-2 record and a seven-game winning streak into Southwestern League play. The Indians battled Durango in their first league game, proving they are ready and willing to fight for every win.
The game was tight right from the start with Montrose and Durango exchanging leads throughout the first half. The score was 25-25 at half time, keeping the home crowd on the edge of their seats. The Demons managed to get a step ahead with a four-point lead at the end of the third quarter.
“It was a pretty good back-and-forth game. I do not think either team was ahead by more than five points the whole game,” Montrose head coach Martin Maloney said.
The Indians fought back on both ends of the court in the final quarter. With 15 seconds left in the game and trailing by one point, a steal by the Indians gave them what would be the last possession. Montrose called a time out to set up a final play. They didn’t get it off, but senior guard Cameron Jones was fouled and awarded two free throws. Jones missed the first, but sank the second, tying the game at 49. In overtime Montrose outscored the Demons 10-6, to seal the 59-55 win.
“It is important to get off to a good start, especially at home,” Maloney said after the Durango game.
The thrilling overtime win was not necessarily the Indians’ best game of the week, however.
“The game was fun to watch as a fan, but as a coach, it was stressful,” Maloney said. The team did not play to their full potential. They had 25 turnovers in the game, but he said he was pleased they were able to get the win. As always though, there is room to improve.
“I did not think we played as sharply as we could… We need to do a better job of taking care of the ball,” Maloney concluded.
Montrose’s leading scorer, 6’5” senior Nathan Hawley, got just 18 points against Durango’s tough defense. (He’s averaging 23.5 per game.) Hawley’s teammates took some of the pressure off, though, with Michael Orndorff contributing 12 points and Brad Warren 11. Angelo Youngren, and Jones added 7 and 6 points, respectively.
“It was the second game after the break and the first Southwestern League game. There may have been some nerves and added pressure,” Maloney said.
The next morning, the Indians were still savoring their win when they took on the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers. The home team had a slow first half, allowing Cortez to come within a one point at the end of the second quarter. But Hawley brought the offensive spark as usual, scoring 20 points in the second half, and the team finished the game with a convincing 61-40 victory.
Following their rout of Cortez, the Indians defeated Grand Junction Central 53-37 last Friday, Jan 20, in Grand Junction. Hawley relinquished his leading score duties to Brad Warren for this game, who scored 15 points to lead the team as well as playing defense like an animal. Warren’s 9 rebounds and the team’s strong overall defense helped a struggling offense to earn their tenth straight win of the season.
Maloney believes the results in these first league tests show the value of playing in the three big tournaments early on in their season.
“All of those games were challenges, and we met those challenges pretty well,” Maloney said.
The upcoming league match-up against Fruita Monument, in Fruita, will be the next test for the Indians. This is the game they need to gauge their success for the remainder of league play, and looking ahead to the 4A playoffs. The Fruita Wildcats have been the kings of the SWL the last few years; since 2010 they are 14-0 in league play.
This is not the only challenge in the schedule for the team though. Montrose will play Grand Junction this Friday, Jan. 27, and Maloney anticipates the Tigers will be tough to play on their home court. He also expects Durango to be looking for revenge in their rematch in Durango in two weeks.
“There are no easy teams in our league, no easy games in the schedule. We have to be ready for every game,” Maloney said.