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Pirate girls 2-1 for the week

Despite an inconsistent performance on Friday night against Dolores, the Pirate girls’ basketball team managed to come back from shaky late second and early third quarter performances to take the Bears, 53-42.

Returning Saturday evening to face the Cortez Panthers, the Pirates scrambled in overtime to capture the Wolf Creek Classic tournament championship title, but came up short with a 61-63 loss and a second-place standing.

Although the Pirates suffered from a slow launch Friday, scoring only eight points in the first quarter, the Bears lumbered into the game with an even more uncertain gait, managing just a single bucket in the period.

Despite a strong start to the second period, with Pagosa holding Dolores outside the key, fouls and turnovers dragged the Pirates’ boat down. Allowing the Bears to claw their way back in the latter half of the period (to outscore Pagosa 14-11 in the period), the Pirates had a narrow 19-16 lead at the end of the half.

“We got into foul trouble with Mary (Brinton) and Vic (Victoria Espinosa),” said Coach Wes Lewis, “and at that point we kind of traded baskets.”

Returning for the second half with uncertain play, Pagosa continued with fouling problems, buffing passes and giving the Bears a leg up, eventually allowing Dolores to pull ahead, first on a free throw, then on an undefended layup.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the Pirates pulled it together behind three plays by Breezy Bryant — back-to-back three pointers and a bold steal for a drive for another two. Bringing the team back from a three-point deficit, Bryant rallied the team in the last minutes of the third quarter, giving the Pirates a 17-12 scoring advantage in the period and a 36-28 lead going into the final quarter.

With Pagosa’s momentum reasserted, the Pirates shook Dolores; the Bears looked frustrated and the focused play they’d exhibited at the end of the second quarter and into the early portion of the third quarter degraded into a sloppy attempt to hold onto the game. With air balls and clumsy attempts to draw fouls, the Bears were unable to grab back any momentum, essentially handing the Pirates the 53-41 victory.

“I didn’t think we played well,” Lewis said , despite his team’s 12-point victory. “I think Breezy really saved it for us; she had eight points in a minute and a half. After that, we had some rebounding and played in the paint.”

Lewis also credited Brinton who, despite being benched to stay out of foul trouble, still managed to score 21 points in the game.

“We need to play better than we played, tonight,” Lewis said following Friday’s game. “We need to answer a tough press if we want to start looking like a championship team.”

In fact, Lewis was correct in his assessment of the team’s chances against the press. Despite an impressive early lead against the Panthers on Saturday night, and a late fourth-quarter rally that took the game into overtime, the Pirates were unable to answer an aggressive full-court press, falling 63-61 to the Panthers and taking second place in the tournament.

The Pirates took an early lead, outscoring Cortez 12-9 in the first quarter. However, Cortez turned up the heat in the second period, playing an aggressive game of grabbing the ball and forcing turnovers down court with a harassing press. Hitting several shots from three-point territory, the Panthers were able to outscore the Pirates 7-15 in the second quarter, leaving the half with a 19-24 lead.

Playing behind intimidating defense and quick offense of the Yanito twins, Keeley and Kelia, Cortez was able to maintain the momentum in the third quarter. Although the Pirates were able to bring the game to a tie at 4:34 on a Meagan Bryant free throw, Keely Yanito was able to bring back a Cortez advantage with several pitch-perfect three-pointers and, outscoring the Pirates 18-16 in the quarter, the Panthers crept into the final period with a 42-35 lead.

With the Panthers looking a little worn out after three periods of an aggressive full-court press, the Pirates looked to grab the momentum back. Mary Brinton, driving to the bucket with several superb layups, brought the Pirates within striking distance. With Breezy Bryant fouling out at 3:38, Cortez looked like they might have a slight advantage with the Pirates’ loss of a key player. In turn, Cortez lost senior standout Jenna Schaak to fouls and, while not quite an even trade, at least leveled the playing field somewhat.

A Cortez foul on Brinton on a connected bucket gave the Pirates a chance to tie the game. With just 18 seconds left, Brinton made the free throw and took the game into overtime as the Pirates outscored the Panthers 16-9 in the final quarter and forced the 51-51 tie.

After trading buckets in overtime, unfortunately the Pirates were edged out at the end. Although it appeared to players and fans alike that a Victoria Espinosa shot close to the buzzer was good for three and that a Cortez foul on Brinton (after the Panthers bobbled the in-bounds pass) would force a tie, the referees ruled Espinosa’s shot was taken inside the line and Brinton’s post-buzzer free throw was for the records, but not for the game.

Again, Brinton led the team with 31 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. Espinosa was a distant second with 11 points, followed by Meagan Bryant with 10 points.

The Pirates came back Tuesday night when they hosted the Del Norte Tigers, serving up a big 50-20 win for the fans.

Playing sound offensive and defensive basketball, the Pirates outscored the Tigers in all four quarters, while holding Del Norte to single-digit scoring in each of those quarters. Beating the Tigers 14-5 in the first period, the Pirates held Del Norte to a single bucket in the second quarter while racking up another 11 points of their own, leading 25-7 at the end of the half. The Tigers were outscored 13-7 in the third quarter and 12-6 in the final period.

Brinton led the Pirates with 16 points and 12 rebounds, followed by Breezy Bryant who scored 12 points and had six assists and five steals. Meagan Bryant finished in the top-three with 10 points scored for the game.

The Pirates will be at home Saturday night with a 5:30 p.m. tip-off time against the undefeated 3A Salida Spartans.

jim@pagosasun.com