Battle Mountain’s late rally falls short against Durango in Saturday afternoon boys basketball action
Huskies trimmed 11-point deficit to three in final two minutes
You know things are getting exciting when even your rivals are cheering you on from the bleachers. As the Battle Mountain boys basketball team trimmed an 11-point third quarter deficit down to one possession in the final 90 seconds of Saturday’s home game against Durango, players from Vail Christian and Eagle Valley, sitting together on the far end of the home bleachers, got on their feet, hoping to see their up-Valley rivals complete the rally.
Unfortunately, it was ‘too little, too late’ for Battle Mountain, which dropped the home contest 54-46 to the Demons to fall to 2-8 on the season.
“I thought our kids were very creative, they worked hard and they left it all on the floor,” said head coach Joe Lundstrom.
“There were a couple moments of the game, especially the second quarter, where we just couldn’t make a bucket. Couldn’t make a layup — showed up in the score. Our defense was fine, we just couldn’t score.”
After storming out to a 13-3 first-quarter lead, the Huskies still led 17-11 late in the second. The Demons, however, capitalized on the home team’s inability to convert from close, taking a one-point lead into the locker room at the midway point. In the third, Durango’s center Jacob Nuebert used his 6-foot-7-inch frame to bully his way to eight of his 16 points, giving his team a 39-28 lead.
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“In the third quarter, he just kind of took over. He was bigger than anybody we had; we struggled to stop him,” Lundstrom said of the big man, who proved to be a skilled passer from the post as well. Lundstrom said the strategy of playing behind the post and hoping self-inflicted wounds like traveling and turnovers would do the trick ended up not working.
“Everything we saw in film, he didn’t play like that. He stepped up today and he was phenomenal,” Lundstrom continued.
“And you know, we missed probably seven or eight layups. Uncontested layups. That was really the difference in the game — missing a layup is really like a turnover. And it seems like they punished us every time we didn’t make a layup.”
With 6:13 to go in the fourth, Jose Madero and Porter Middaugh — both of whom scored eight points in the fourth quarter — came alive. Middaugh hustled for an offensive rebound and put it back with his left hand to bring the team within 8. When Nuebert answered with a quick two, Middaugh replied by drilling a corner three, catching and shooting off the reversal after running across the entire baseline.
Shortly after, the junior picked up his fourth foul reaching in for a steal. Even though that one didn’t work, his anticipation of a lazy Demon pass with three minutes to go did, and he converted on a right-handed layup to bring the Huskies within six. Middaugh made another steal and coast-to-coast effort, but fouled out on when he was called for a controversial charge on the play with 2:22 remaining.
The fire had been lit, however, and Madero and Whit Hyde, one of just two seniors on the team, kept things alive. Hyde, who finished with 13 points to lead the team, stole an inbounds pass on the ensuing possession after freshman Beau Suman subbed in for Middaugh. Though his 3-pointer was off, he got a second chance 45-seconds later. He penetrated into the lane and kicked out to Madero, who nailed a clutch triple, making it 47-44 with 1:59 to go.
Durango, struggling to maintain composure, attempted to run down the clock, but when Luke Wesley missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Huskies had another shot to tie. Suman had a great look from deep and let it fly. His bid for glory rimmed around and twisted out.
“I admire that kid for stepping up and taking that shot as a freshman,” Lundstrom said. “And you know what, that kid can knock those down, so we have no problem with him shooting those. None at all.”
Durango eventually pulled away at the line, though it was more on the strength of offensive rebounds than accurate shooting from the charity strike. With the win, the Demons moved to 4-10.
The Huskies have three games next week, hosting Grand Junction Central on Tuesday, playing at Vail Mountain School on Thursday, and returning to Edwards on Saturday to play Fruita Monument.
“So, it’s going to be a tough week,” Lundstrom said. “We’re young and we’re learning. It’s a process.”