By DAMON SEITERS
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Durango and Las Vegas High traded the lead seven times in the first three minutes of the third quarter Thursday night.
Then the host Trailblazers leaned on their defense and their leader.
Durango went on an 11-0 run to take control en route to a 66-55 win over the Wildcats in the Trailblazersâ season opener.
âThat was big for us,â Durango coach DeShawn Henry said. âIt think the whole run was sparked by a couple deflections and a couple defensive things that we did.â
Senior point guard Demetrius Valdez ignited the run with a driving layup for a 36-34 lead with 4:44 left in the quarter, and Durango kept the lead the rest of the game. Durango scored six points off turnovers in the third quarter and forced 23 turnovers total.
Valdez finished with 21 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals. He had another key basket after Las Vegas had cut the lead to 58-52 on a tip-in by Marquise Raybon with 1:03 to play.
âHeâs our leader, for sure,â Henry said of Valdez. âHeâs a senior, and we kind of go the way he goes. Weâre always looking to him for a lot of things: leadership, defensive leadership, steadying us on the offensive end, leading the break. So thereâs a lot demanded of him, but he can handle it.â
Senior forward Jeremie Portuondo, who spent last season as Durangoâs sixth man, added 16 points and12 rebounds.
âLast year was a lot of fun with Michael Diggins and Jason Landman, so Jeremie kind of had to be the sixth man and come off the bench and do some different things,â Henry said. âThis year, missing those guys, heâs able to come in and kind of flourish a little bit and show what he can do and lead the team in other ways.â
Nicquel Blake, a transfer from Shadow Ridge, scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half for the Trailblazers.
âI think Demetrius kind of settled him down, talking to him and calming him down a little bit,â Henry said.
Raybon led Las Vegas (1-1) with 22 points and eight rebounds.
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-458. Follow @DamonSeiters on Twitter.