Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 | 1:10 p.m.
For the Durango High basketball team, winning and losing games will hinge on how it plays defense.
“I learned (to like playing defense) at Durango,” said senior guard Demetrius Valdez. “If you want to be on the floor you have to play defense and get stops.”
Fellow senior Zyare Ruffin, a man of few words, believes in the same concept.
“Defense,” he said. “It’s all defense.”
For coach DeShawn Henry, knowing players have bought into the concept means the Trailblazers are heading the right direction for a successful season.
“It makes me feel great,” Durango coach DeShawn Henry said. “It’s what we talk about every day so I’m glad they’re listening.”
The Traiblazers allowed only 58.8 points per game last season, going 17-7 for a second place finish in the Southwest League behind eventual state champion Bishop Gorman.
Durango is already off to a solid start, besting Las Vegas High 66-55 in the season opener last week.
“Our game plan is to be a defensively sound team and play tough defense night in and night out,” Henry said. “Our league is pretty tough so you’re not going to be able to get through our league without some kind of defense.”
The Southwest was already one of the strongest leagues in the valley and will only get tougher with the addition of defending three-time 3A state champion Clark High.
Durango returns six lettermen and three starters from last year’s team including Demetrius Valdez, who averaged 12 points, five assists and three rebounds per game.
“As the point guard I lead my teammates and give them confidence,” Valdez said. “I shoot the ball but mainly getting my teammates involved to get us more opportunities.”
The point guard picked up right where he left off last year with 21 points, six assists and six rebounds against Las Vegas.
Valdez will be surrounded by weapons like seniors Ruffin and Jeremie Portuondo, and sophomore guard Nick Blake.
“It’s really fun because we’re all young and talented,” Valdez said. “We like to play defense and turn that in to offense to run the floor and get on fast breaks.”
With more experience on their side the Traiblazers are prepared for another deep run in the playoffs after last year they were eliminated by Centennial in the Regional Semifinal.
“(The experience) is good and bad,” Henry said. “It’s very good because they know what to expect with our systems and what we are running. It’s bad because they can get a little lazy or take things for granted, so we are constantly trying to stay hungry, stay motivated and stay focused on what we’re trying to do.”