“We played well, we just came up short.”
So said Pirates girls’ basketball coach Wes Lewis regarding the team’s heartbreaking one-point loss to Monte Vista that knocked Pagosa out of the Intermountain League Tournament and ended a season rife with setbacks, but one showing tremendous potential for next year — and the following year.
Taking the floor in Monte Vista against a team that had twice defeated them this season, the Pirates showed a determination and courage that has characterized the team all season. Leading in scoring for the inaugural quarter, the Pirates put Monte Vista on notice that the past was done and the only game that mattered was the one being played.
Up 10-6 at the end of a tight, defensive first quarter, the Pirates, unfortunately, found top producers in foul trouble, giving Monte Vista enough wiggle room to bring the half to a 28-28 tie.
“We were plagued by serious foul trouble throughout the game,” Lewis said.
On a scoring seesaw, both teams found themselves catching up after falling behind, then taking a lead that dissipated as the opposing team took back the initiative. Gaining a two-point edge at the end of the third period, Monte Vista outscored Pagosa 11-9 in the quarter.
Getting ahead and then losing the edge, the Pirates ran a set to a 55-55 tie with just 20 seconds left in the game. A questionable technical foul, on a block, took senior Allison Hart out of the game, with 14 seconds left, allowing a single Monte Vista point from the free-throw line. Calling a timeout with six seconds left, Lewis called for a play to run freshman Breezy Bryant to the basket who, unfortunately, was unable to get the shot off, giving Monte Vista a 56-55 win at the buzzer.
Undeterred by the loss, Lewis pointed out the tough inter-league competition, saying, “With two out of four of our conference’s teams going on to state, it shows the strength of our league.”
In fact, league champions Bayfield and the Monte Vista team they beat in the IML finals are both loaded with talented seniors, a fact that provides little consolation for the present Pagosa team but bodes well for the Pirates in seasons to come.
Wrapping up their season, Hart led the Pirates with 16 points and 10 rebounds in the final game, followed by Bryant with 13 points, who also led with four assists. Sophomore Mary Brinton was third in scoring with eight points, with junior Megan Bryant scoring seven points and rounding out the Pirate’s leading scorers.
Looking back, as well as ahead, Lewis said, “I’m disappointed that we didn’t make it to the playoffs but I’m not disappointed in the girls or their effort for the year. Obviously, we’re going to miss our seniors (Hart, Shelby Stretton and Courtney Guilliams). There’s still some water in the well — we just have to keep working hard. There’s still some pieces of the puzzle there.”
Indeed, with sophomores Brinton and Bryant not just performing as team standouts but as league stars, and with junior Victoria Espinosa showing exemplary leadership (“I admire her work ethic both on and off the court,” Lewis said), the promise of a state championship in years to come could be bright.