Clark sophomore Ian Alexander took advantage of his length to make things difficult for Durango’s Demetrius Valdez all game Monday night.
Especially on the Trailblazers’ final possession.
The 6-foot-6-inch Alexander blocked Valdez’s potential game-tying 3-point attempt to help the second-ranked Chargers escape with a 59-54 road win.
“Ian, his length gives us definitely a bonus on defense,” Clark coach Colin Darfour said. “He’s the type of guy who can guard any position. He can guard a guy in the post, he can guard a guy on the perimeter.
“Most of the guys guarding Demetrius Valdez are his size (5-10) or close, but we’ve got guys that are much longer, much bigger. And I think that helps us a little bit.”
Alexander guarded Valdez most of the night, and limited the Durango senior to five points through three quarters. But Valdez got going in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 of his 17 points to help the Trailblazers wage a comeback.
His 25-footer with 27 seconds to play cut the Clark lead to 54-51. After Clark’s Antwon Jackson made 1 of 2 free throws, Nicquel Blake was fouled shooting a 3-pointer, and he made all three free throws to make it 55-54 with 13.4 seconds left.
Clark’s James Bridges was fouled before any time went off the clock, and he made both free throws to make it 57-54, and Durango (8-8, 5-3 Southwest League) took timeout to set up a potential tying play.
Valdez brought the ball up the court and tried to pull up for another long 3-pointer, but Alexander blocked it. Jeremie Portuondo got the offensive rebound and got the ball to Anthony Hunter, but his 3-pointer also missed.
Bridges rebounded and was fouled with 1.5 seconds. He knocked down both free throws for the final margin. The Chargers (18-3, 6-1) were 14-for-16 from the line in the fourth quarter and 21-for-24 (87.5 percent) in the game.
“Free throws were key for us,” Darfour said. “Without those free throws, we might have been in trouble tonight.”
Bridges was 7-for-8 from the line and finished with 20 points and six rebounds to lead the Chargers. Jalen Hill was 10-for-10 from the line and added 16 points and seven rebounds for Clark, which played without regulars Sedrick Hammond and Trey Woodbury.
“We’ve got a couple guys who are going through some personal development and having some issues right now,” Darfour said. “We’re working with them to get them right and get them back on the court.”
Deshawn Wilson stepped up with the two players out. He scored hte first six points of the fourth quarter to allow the Chargers to push their lead to 45-32.
“Deshawn is just a phyiscal specimen out there,” Darfour said. “He’s a man amongst boys out there so its hard for a lot of people to guard him. We noticed that (Hunter) was guarding him. As good of a player as he is, he’s still a freshman and Deshawn’s a grown man.”
Darfour also credited junior Adam Forbes and sophomore Joel Burney for their contributions off the bench.
“That’s one of the best things about our team,” Darfour said. “We’ve got players from our top to our bottom who are all willing and ready to step in and contribute when we have guys out.”
Hunter added 10 points for Durango.
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at email@example.com or 702-380-4587. Follow @DamonSeiters on Twitter.