Two big victories this past week bode well for the Pirates in the post-season. After trouncing the Falcons 69-37 in La Jara last Friday, the Pirates returned home to skin the Cortez Panthers 77-48 on Tuesday night.
Travelling to La Jara last Friday night for a rematch against the 5-9 Centauri Falcons (whom the Pirates hosted, and defeated, 66-45 on Jan. 26), the Pagosa boys held the advantage from start to finish, allowing just one double-digit quarter for Centauri and outscoring the Falcons in all four quarters.
Displaying the kind of tough defense and quick offense that have been the hallmark of the Pirates all season long, Pagosa got off to a strong start, scoring 20 points of their own in the first quarter (while holding the Falcons to just nine) and outscoring Centauri 19-7 in the second quarter, leaving the half with a 39-16 lead.
The Pirates eased off the intensity in the second half, allowing the Falcons to score 12 points in the third quarter but outpaced Centauri by scoring 16 points in the period. Giving no quarter, the Pirates finished in the final period by again outscoring the Falcons 14-9, heading home with a big 69-37 victory.
“In terms of half-court offense and executing offense, it was one of the better games we’ve played all year,” said coach Jim Shaffer.
More than that, having defeated their league opponents on Saturday, the Pirates finished the season as regular season conference champs with a perfect 5-0 league record, so far. With their loss, Centauri finished 5-10 overall and 1-4 in the IML.
Although the Pirates were respectable enough with their field goal percentage (shooting 56 percent from the floor), they delivered from the free-throw line, shooting 70 percent. Tyson Ross led in scoring with 20 points and logged four steals. Kain Lucero followed up with 13 points and led with four assists while Zerek Jones finished with 11 points. With all three leaders underclassmen (Ross and Jones are sophomores, Lucero a freshman), it’s evident that there’s a lot to be said for the depth of the Pirate bench.
Prior to the start of Tuesday’s game, Jesse Donahue, representing the McDonald’s corporation, presented Pirate team captain Taylor Shaffer with a certificate, announcing to the crowd that Shaffer had been nominated to the McDonald’s All-American team.
Shaffer is among 44 players nominated in the state of Colorado (and about 1,500 nationwide). Players in Colorado are nominated the McDonald’s All-American team by Denver Post sports writer Neil Devlin.
With previous nominees including names such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neil (among other greats), Shaffer is indeed in very distinguished company.
Following the presentation, the Pirates went on to dominate the 1-11 4A Cortez Panthers in a game that was pretty much over almost as soon as it started.
With Pagosa exhibiting its characteristic quick offense and greedy defense, the Pirates showed the Panthers that their opposition was futile. For instance, after going two-for-two from the free-throw line, Ross immediately snatched the Panther’s take-in and put another two points on the board with an easy layup. Unable to match Pagosa’s attack, Cortez left the first quarter outscored 23-6.
The second quarter was no kinder to Cortez as the Pirates continued to dominate. Seemingly unable to finish at the bucket and committing numerous turnovers, the Panthers were outscored again in the second 24-8, and were down 47-14 at the end of the half.
“I thought we came out and dominated in the first half,” said coach Shaffer.
Cortez made a valiant effort in the second half, adjusting their defense, turning up the heat on the press and holding the Pirates scoreless for almost three minutes into the quarter. Making their own adjustments, the Pirates eventually sailed on, again outscoring Cortez, 16-12 in the period, expanding the lead in a 63-26 game.
Early in the fourth, coach Shaffer had several starters on the bench, wrapped in warm-up jackets. Giving his younger players a chance at some floor time, Shaffer was unconcerned as the Panthers crept back; far too behind their prey to catch a break, Cortez finally managed to outscore Pagosa in the quarter, 22-14, but fell under the Pirates’ sword with a 77-48 defeat.
Ross led the team in scoring with 20 points and also led with four steals. Kain Lucero was second with 13 points and Zerek Jones finished third with 11 points. Overall, the Pirates shot a respectable 56 percent from the floor and an impressive 70 percent from the free-throw line.
The Pirates finish up their season this weekend with two games on the road. Tomorrow night, Pagosa meets their conference rivals the 6-11 Bayfield Wolverines, in the last league game of the season. At 3-1 in conference, Bayfield hangs two games behind Pagosa with no chance of overtaking the Pirates — even with a win tomorrow night.
Moving to Farmington, N.M. on Saturday, the Pirates face a 5-19 4A team that has lost its last six games and 10 of last 12. Playing in Pagosa Springs on Feb. 4, the Scorpions lost 60-42 to the Pirates.
Pagosa will host the IML tournament next weekend. The Pirates will play Thursday Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m. and, if they win that game, will go on to play for the conference title Saturday, Feb. 27, at 7:30 p.m. against the winners of Thursday’s 6 p.m. game.