What a difference a year makes.
Last year, facing the 4A Montezuma-Cortez Panthers in the Wolf Creek Classic championship game, the Pirates were robbed of the title, losing to MCHS 61-63 in overtime. In fact, the Panthers were the Pirates’ Achilles Heel last season, beating the Pirates twice, the only team to sink the Pirates in an otherwise perfect regular season.
Prepared to provide MCHS a payback this year at the tournament, the Pirates met little resistance for the title, taking down the Dolores Bears 51-32 on Friday night, then skinning the Panthers 52-20 on Saturday night for the championship game.
Coming out strong against the Bears (top-ranked for 2A girls’ basketball on Colorado Preps), the Pirates never faced a serious challenge throughout the game. With Pagosa leading the Bears 20-6 at the end of the first quarter, the teams matched basket-for-basket in the second with nine points each, leaving the Pirates a 29-15 lead by the end of the half.
“I felt we were in the driver’s seat the whole game,” said Coach Wes Lewis.
Leading scoring in both quarters during the second half, 12-10 in the third and 10-7 in the fourth, the Pirates managed to play some of their younger athletes in the final period when, ahead by 20 points, it was clear the Bears would not overcome the deficit to get back into the game.
“The thing that sticks out for me,” Lewis said, “was how balanced we were. With Mary (Brinton) scoring fifteen, Breezy (Bryant) with thirteen, Brooklynn (DuCharme) getting nine, Magan Kraetsch with six and a bunch of girls with single baskets, we showed a lot of balance out there.”
Brinton not only led in scoring, but also led with 13 rebounds. Bryant led the team with eight steals and tied Sienna Stretton with four assists.
Dolores lost Saturday’s consolation round 46-40 to the Gunnison Cowboys.
Having lost two of their key shooters from last year, the Panthers fielded a team on Saturday night that was much diminished from the nemesis they had been to the Pirates last season.
“The kids were really up for that game,” said Lewis. “They set it as a high priority to defeat Cortez.”
Lewis understated the trouncing handed out to MCHS as the Pirates held the Panthers to just two points for the entire first half (that bucket made midway in the first quarter).
Lacking the daunting full-court press that had stymied the Pirates last year, the Panthers were not just unable to stop Pagosa’s offensive onslaught, but could not manage to break through an immutable defense that prevented MCHS players from bringing the ball into the paint. Falling 11-2 in the first quarter, the Panther’s scoreless second quarter allowed the Pirates to leave the half with a daunting 27-2 lead.
Coming back to score 18 more points in the third, against eight points scored by the Panthers, Pagosa entered the final period with a 45-10 lead, allowing Lewis to once again give his younger players some varsity experience. Although the Panthers managed to finally break double digits in the quarter (scoring 10 points), the seven points scored by Pagosa second-stringers was more than enough to seal the deal against MCHS, and the Pirates finished with an impressive 52-20 victory to take the tournament championship and earn some sweet revenge.
“We were as good on defense on Saturday as we were against Buena Vista last season in the playoffs,” Lewis said. “I thought it was a total team effort defensively. I’m extremely proud of our defense.”
Bryant (named The Denver Post’s “Student Athlete of the Week” this week) led the team with 19 points ( hitting five three-pointers), along with managing four steals and five assists. Brinton followed with 14 points while leading the team with 14 rebounds and six blocked shots. DuCharme was third in scoring with seven points.
Both Brinton and Bryant were named all-tournament players for 2010 — both for their third straight year.
In Sargent tomorrow night to face the 2A Farmers, the Pirates should not have any problem building on their 4-0 record for the season. At 2-2, the Farmers lost to Dolores 44-28 earlier this month.
Likewise, the Pirates’ streak could continue as the Pirates host the 2-1 Salida Spartans (who lost 43-22 to Gunnison on Dec. 7 — Pagosa took down the Cowboys 43-33 in Buena Vista on Dec. 3) on Saturday night. The Pirates take the court at 5:30 p.m. with the boys’ game scheduled for 7 p.m., also against the Spartans.