Durango’s Anthony Hunter showed flashes of brilliance last year, his first season of high school basketball. But even he’d admit it took some time adjusting to a faster speed of play.
Those days are long gone, as evidenced by the 6-foot guard’s sophomore debut Thursday night.
“I felt like this was my coming-out party,” Hunter said.
Hunter scored a game-high 24 points, including his team’s final nine points, to help the seventh-ranked Trailblazers hang on for a 65-64 opening-game victory over host Las Vegas High.
“We really depend on him to lead us, and he did that tonight,” Durango coach DeShawn Henry said. “When we got into a close pinch, he kind of took the game over for us and got us in a position to win.”
Las Vegas’ Zach Matlock knocked down a contested 3-pointer in the right corner to help the Wildcats overcome a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit and give them a 57-56 lead with 1:58 to go.
But on the ensuing possession, Hunter drilled a 3-pointer at the top of the key to give the Trailblazers the lead and spark a 7-0 run. Hunter scored 13 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, and received the ball on all of the team’s final possessions. He also had four assists.
“I played behind a good point guard in Demetrius Valdez (last season), and I learned a lot from him,” said Hunter, who currently holds scholarship offers from Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State and Tulane. “It was kind of just a passing of the torch thing. I can’t disappoint the past of Durango point guards.”
After Durango’s full-court pressure forced a turnover, Hunter was quickly fouled and hit 1 of 2 shots to make it 65-62 with 9.1 seconds left. Las Vegas guard Mory Souhamoro missed the tying 3-pointer from deep on the other end before Matlock scored a put-back at the buzzer for the final score.
Jovan Lubura added 17 points and seven rebounds, Vernell Watts had 11 points and Nick Blake had seven points and nine rebounds for Durango.