weather icon Partly Cloudy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Durango cruises, will face Liberty for 5A boys title — PHOTOS

Updated February 24, 2023 - 11:13 pm

Offense was hard to come by for Durango and Douglas in the first half of Friday’s Class 5A boys basketball state semifinal.

When the Southern League champion Trailblazers found their shot in the second half, Douglas had no answers.

Durango scored 23 third-quarter points to pull away in the second half for a 70-38 win at Cox Pavilion. The Trailblazers advance to the state title game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center against Liberty (21-9), a 72-51 winner late Friday over Bishop Manogue.

Sophomore guard Jevon Yapi led Durango (20-6) with 18 points, and senior point guard Tylen Riley scored 15 off the bench. Junior forward Michael Bartlett added 12 for the Trailblazers.

“It took us awhile after the first half,” Durango interim coach Mike Lee said. “We got going. We got started better in the second half.”

The Trailblazers outscored Douglas (17-12) by a 23-10 margin in the third quarter, surpassing their first-half total of 22 points, to put the game out of reach. Durango went on a 16-5 run through the final 5:26 of the quarter to lead 45-25 entering the final quarter.

Durango didn’t let its foot off the gas. Yapi scored seven quick points to start the fourth and ignite a 10-0 Trailblazers run to grow their lead to 30 points.

“We just worked through it,” Lee said. “The second half was our best half. We were just still testing (Douglas) out.”

Durango had one notable change to its starting lineup. Riley did not start. Instead, the Trailblazers started junior forward Michael Bartlett.

Neither team established much of a rhythm in the first quarter. After Douglas senior wing Thomas McDowell made a 3-pointer for the game’s first basket, Durango went on an 8-0 run for the next five minutes to hold a five-point lead late in the quarter.

When the 3-point shot wasn’t working for the Trailblazers, they attacked the basket. All four of their first-quarter field goals came in the paint. Five Durango players scored in the first quarter as it held a 10-6 advantage after the first eight minutes.

“We can’t always rely on the 3-point or outside perimeter shot,” Lee said. “We do better when we get inside. It gets us going.”

Durango didn’t score its first point in the second quarter until the 4:43 mark when sophomore guard Colton Knoll made one of two free throw attempts.

A floater from Douglas senior guard Jac Reid with 4:17 left in the second half made it a one-point deficit. It would be Douglas’ last field goal for the next four minutes as Durango went on a 9-0 run to lead 20-10.

Riley scored five points during the run as Durango established some offensive consistency before halftime driving to the basket. The Trailblazers’ defense ran Douglas off the 3-point line, and Bartlett and Degourville limited second-chance opportunities.

Douglas found the basket in the final seconds. Senior forward Theo Reid made a layup with 16 seconds left before halftime, and sophomore guard Caden Thacker hit a half-court buzzer beater to make it a 22-15 Durango lead at halftime.

McDowell led Douglas with 12 points.

Lee said he wasn’t sure what attributed to Durango’s first-half struggles. But he said his team could have brought more intensity to start the game. Lee said with a state title on the line, the Trailblazers will need to be ready from the start.

“(Saturday) is the last game. The only game,” Lee said. We got to clean up a few things. … In the next game, we have to turn it up. We can’t be that relaxed.”

Liberty cruises to final

When Liberty’s offense started to struggle in the second quarter, junior point guard Dedan Thomas Jr. stepped up.

Thomas scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in the second quarter to help Liberty defeat Northern champion Bishop Manogue in the other semifinal.

Junior guard Andre Porter added 14 points for Liberty, which had 10 players score points.

Liberty jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead, but Bishop Manogue (18-12) slowly chipped away. Two free throws from Manogue senior guard Jordan Morency cut the deficit to four points, but that was the closest it would be the rest of the way.

Thomas scored 12 of Liberty’s 19 second-quarter points to grow its lead. Thomas scored six points in the final 54 seconds as the Patriots led 37-22 at halftime.

The Patriots kept the pressure on in the third quarter, pushing the ball with their up-tempo offense and suffocating Manogue with their pressure defense.

Liberty sprinted out to a 17-6 run at the start of the third quarter to put the game out of reach. Eight Patriots scored in the third quarter to extend the lead to 63-37.

Thomas did not play most of the second half with an apparent back injury. Liberty coach Kevin Soares said Thomas will be fine and will play in the title game.

Liberty defeated Durango 70-58 in the Tarkanian Classic in December. But the Trailblazers won the last two meetings, 76-69 on Jan. 21 and 65-59 in the 5A Southern League title game Feb. 18.

Morency led Manogue with 14 points.

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.