Durkin, Vuletich power South Range in season opener
By Dan Hiner
The South Range girls basketball team opened its season with the Toni Ross Spirit Foundation Tournament and after their first two games of the season, the Raiders have learned two things: they are young and will make mistakes, and they have a talented duo in the post.
South Range (2-0) relied heavy on senior Maddie Durkin. She finished the game with 14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks as the Raiders beat the Howland Tigers, 55-51. Durkin was named the tournament MVP after the game.
Freshman Danielle Vuletich played just as well, finishing with 13 points, 12 rebounds and a block.
“It’s great to have Maddie on the other side of the post because we’re basically twin towers,” Vuletich said. “She’s a really good post player, she’s a really good guard, she can shoot. And when we get those mismatches, one of us could dump it into each other for the high-lows which are easy buckets for us.”
“We haven’t had this much length in a long time, South Range coach Tony Matisi said. “We understand we’re gonna have matchup problems, the other team is gonna have matchup problems. What we’re trying to do is see the matchup, go to it and we did that for the most part tonight.”
Durkin said Vuletich has been a welcomed addition. Durkin said she was double-teamed all of last season, but now she has another threat in frontcourt.
“If I miss a shot, Danielle’s there to put it back up. If Danielle misses a shot, I’m there to put it back up,” Durkin said. “I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t break the rebound record this year because she gets in there and gets everything. With the size, it’s kinda hard to pick who to guard down low. Last year I got doubled down low, this year they can’t double down low because we got two trees down there. They got to pick and chose.”
Howland head coach John Diehl said South Range’s size gave the team problems all night on both ends of the court.
The Raiders jumped out to 9-0 lead with 6:26 left in the first quarter, but Howland (1-1) caught back up using a full-court press.
Diehl said the press was the only way to get around the Raiders’ length. But he needed to go to a half-court defense because his players were getting tired defending the whole court.
Diehl said Mackenzie Maze is developing into the team’s best player. He said Maze has increased her scoring to 23 points per game in the first two games of the season.
Maze led the Tigers with 22 points. Gabby Hartzell and Ka’Rina Mallory were second with 10 points each.
South Range’s youth allowed the Tigers to get back in the game. The Raiders were in foul trouble all night and turned the ball over 18 times.
“That’s what practice is for, we’ll get better throughout the season,” Vuletich said.
Matisi said the team has “unlimited” potential, and the players can only improve as they get more experience.
“We can only get better and better,” Matisi said. “We’re still learning so much stuff. We made mistakes but our athleticism carried us through in so many spots tonight. It’s nice having some veterans along for the mix. We have a nice mix of juniors, seniors to go along with the freshman. It’s really melding together, and it shows in crunch time.
“We want Maddie with the ball. She did a great job and we supported her well tonight.”