On Friday, the Pirate boys looked liked a championship team, hitting on all cylinders, passing and pounding every bucket, stealing and blocking, holding the Bayfield Wolverines far outside of the paint.
Running like a well-oiled machine, truly operating as a team, no less than five Pirates scored at least 10 points in a game that resulted in an 87-33 slaughter of the Wolverines. Unfortunately, the Pagosa engine appeared to have run too hot on Friday as the boys fell in Alamosa to the Mean Moose 43-42 the next night.
If the Wolverines managed to get past the Lucero brothers, Zach and Kain (who led the team in steals, 10 and five, respectively), they still had to penetrate the key — which the Pirates held with unassailable integrity. Unable to hold off a quick and aggressive Pagosa offense, Bayfield left the first quarter down 30-8.
“We started defensively,” said coach Jim Shaffer,” with defensive intensity.”
Pacing themselves, Pagosa continued the offensive onslaught while holding the Wolverines to the outside, outscoring Bayfield 23-10 in the second quarter and leaving the half with an intimidating 53-18 lead.
Early in the third quarter, the Pirates showed what they can do as a team. Driving past several Wolverines to the bucket, Pagosa exhibited clockwork razzle-dazzle, as Taylor Shaffer finessed a bounce pass to Tyson Ross who repeated the move by passing to Zach Lucero who finished with a picture-perfect layup. Later in the quarter, a textbook assist from Daniel Puskas resulted in a slam-dunk by Zerek Jones. Unable to overcome superior teamwork and athleticism, Bayfield found itself outscored again in the quarter, held to just four points while the Pirates took 16 of their own.
Having begun to circulate JV players in midway through the third, Coach Shaffer put his bench in for the entire fourth quarter. The Pirtes still managed to outscore Bayfield 18-11 in the final period to finish with a 87-33 victory.
“A lot of that was created out of our defense,” Coach Shaffer said. “That allowed us to get out in the middle of the court and make some plays.”
Taylor Shaffer led the team with 20 points and nine assists while Zach Lucero finished second 16 points; Kain Lucero finished with 12 points. Ross and Austin Jones each had 10 points. The Pirate defense was formidable enough that they only needed two baskets after the first quarter to take the game.
The finely-tuned machine on display Friday fell victim to either the second law of thermodynamics or the “any given day” dictum, as Pagosa came up short in Alamosa on Saturday night. Meeting a 7-8 Mean Moose team that the Pirates defeated 61-45 on Dec. 5 in Buena Vista, Pagosa couldn’t seem to find their rhythm until the fourth quarter.
“As good as we played on Friday, we played that bad on Saturday,” Shaffer said.
Outscored in two of four quarters, the Pirates had problems finishing at the bucket (with 41 percent from the floor and 45 percent from the free-throw line), holding onto the ball (a season high 25 turnovers) and staying out of foul trouble (another season high, with 24 team fouls and two players eventually fouling out), the tight teamwork shown on Friday night was barely visible in Alamosa.
If a good defense is the best offense, it wasn’t enough. Although Pagosa managed to hold Alamosa to just six points in the first quarter, the inability to connect at the bucket led to just a two-point edge for the period. Still strong on defense, holding the Mean Moose to just 11 points in the second quarter, the Pirates appeared rattled by the net and only managed seven points from the floor, leaving the half down 17-15 with just three-for-10 from the free-throw line and deep In foul trouble.
Alamosa got their momentum in the third quarter, as Coach Shaffer was forced to pull key players to avoid them fouling out. Taking advantage of sidelined Pagosa players, the Mean Moose grabbed the momentum, outscoring the Pirates 16-7 in the third.
However, the Pirates seemed to arise from their torpor, coming back with a final period rally. Outscoring Alamosa 20-10 in the quarter, the Pirates appeared to turn things around, finishing their shots and eventually grabbing a 42-38 lead with less than four minutes left. In a defensive battle to the end, Alamosa was able to force a tie with less than two seconds left — then capitalized on a Pagosa foul, scoring a winning point on a free-throw (had the Pirates broken 50 percent from the free-throw line, the result would have been a Pagosa victory).
“We just didn’t show mental toughness,” the coach said.
Taylor Shaffer led the team with 14 points while Ross finished with 10 points and led the team with seven steals and six rebounds. Austin Jones also had six rebounds and six points along with Jordan Caler finishing with six points.
Still leading the conference with a perfect 3-0 record, the Pirates drop to 9-3 overall. Tonight, the Pirates host the 5-13 Farmington Scorpions at 7 p.m., facing a team that has broken the 50-point mark just five times this season. Although the Pirates defeated Farmington twice last year, competition in New Mexico is always tough and the Pirates could face a battle. The Pirates host again on Saturday at 7 p.m. for a rematch against a struggling 0-14 Monte Vista team, a squad Pagosa trounced 82-34 on Jan. 16 in the opposition’s house. The Pirates return to the road on Tuesday to challenge the 6-6 Mancos Bluejays, a team that suffered a narrow 59-55 defeat at the hands of the Dolores Bears.