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Pirates 2-1 in weekend hoops action

Exhibiting a steady decline during the past week, the Pirates took their first loss of the season on Tuesday night against the 2A Ignacio Bobcats, showing Pagosa fans a fractious squad in disarray. After logging an impressive 52-39 win last Thursday in Durango against the 4A Demons, the Pirates just got past the 3A Spartans on Saturday with a 54-44 win in overtime, then fell 39-44 Tuesday night against the Bobcats.

While the Pirates may have moved up in the rankings with their win against a higher division team, that promotion will most likely be negated by Tuesday’s loss to a lower division team.

The first of last week’s three games looked to set up an entirely different outcome, however. It appeared that the Pirates were setting the stage for a rout early in the first quarter, scoring nine unanswered points before the Demons put any numbers on the board midway into the period. Holding tough on defense, Pagosa was no less effective on offensive, overcoming the Demon’s distinct height advantage to score 20 points in the quarter while holding Durango to a mere six points.

However, that intensity slid during the next two quarters, allowing the Demons to regain some momentum. Gaining a foothold on defense, the Demons took advantage of a few opportunities inside the paint, outscoring the Pirates 13-12 in the second period. Down 32-19 at the half, the Demons came into the third period with a reinvigorated starting squad.

Uncharacteristic of previous games this season where the Pirates had a blowout third quarter, Pagosa stumbled in that period, allowing the Demons to close the gap by six points late in the quarter. Although Pagosa appeared to regain some fight, Durango held a 10-5 scoring advantage in the third, closing the gap to 37-29 for the final showdown.

Fortunately, Pagosa was able to grab back their previous attack on offense and defense, expanding their lead in the fourth by outscoring the Demons 15-10 and leaving the game with a 52-39 victory.

“We were more consistent, a little better than we’d played in the past,” said coach Randy Sorenson. “I thought that was the best game we’d played all year.”

Kain Lucero led the team last Thursday with 15 points and six assists, followed by Zerek Jones who scored 13 points. Tyson Ross led the team with 10 rebounds and finished third in scoring with nine points.

Moving onto Salida on Saturday night, the Pirates stumbled slightly in the fourth quarter, making it their game to lose.

Coming off Christmas break with a winless start in January (3-3 overall for the season), the Spartans had more fight in them than the Pirates had anticipated. On their home court (where the Spartans had a 1-0 record), the Pirates found themselves fighting in overtime to avoid their first loss of the season.

The game looked to go back and forth during the first half. With the Pirates coming out with an edge in the first quarter, outscoring Salida 13-9, the Spartans struck back in the second with a tough defensive game, holding Pagosa to just five points while scoring 10 of their own, giving them a 19-18 lead leaving the half — the first time all season that the Pirates found themselves down at halftime.

Again, the Pirates made their strongest showing in the third quarter with a selfish defense and a quick offense. Holding the Spartans to just seven points, the Pirates scored 17 for themselves, regaining the lead at 35-26 going into the final quarter.

Despite looking as though the game was in the bag, getting ahead by 11 early in the fourth, the Pirates stumbled badly, giving the Spartans the step up they were looking for. Holding Pagosa scoreless for most of the period, the Spartans gained the edge momentarily. A basket away from the their first loss of the season, the Pirates managed to tie the game and hold that 39-39 deadlock at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.

Fortunately for the Pirates, the Spartans had run out of loose change while Pagosa still had cash to spend. Giving no quarter, the Pirates held the Spartans scoreless until well into the overtime period, outscoring Salida 15-5 in OT and returning home with a 54-44 victory — by the skin of their teeth.

“We seemed to struggle on offense,” said Sorenson, pointing to just four points scored in the fourth. However, Sorenson was pleased with the overtime come back and said, “We regained our focus in OT and scored 15 in half a quarter, basically.”

Tyson Ross led the team with 13 points, followed by Daniel Puskas with 11 points and Kain Lucero with 10 points. Zach Lucero led with five assists while Zerek Jones had six rebounds to lead the team.

Taking the floor on Tuesday in Pagosa Springs to host the Ignacio Bobcats, the Pirates did not seem that they had prepared for a team ranked fifth in the Denver Post polls for state 2A and ranked seventh in Colorado Preps.

Showing the kind of inconsistency that had frustrated Sorenson over the weekend, the Pirates found themselves down 9-7 at the end of the first quarter. Scrambling back in the second, with both teams loaded on defense and stymied on offense, the Pirates managed to leave the half with an 18-15 lead after outscoring the Bobcats 11-6 in the second.

Unfortunately, the Bobcats retook the lead early in the third, holding that advantage through the end of the quarter while outscoring the Pirates 13-9 in the period. The final quarter of the game found both teams trading baskets and it appeared that it would come down to the final bucket of the game as a deciding factor. However, several fouls by the Pirates in the last minute gave the Bobcats a four point advantage from the line, allowing Ignacio to outscore Pagosa 16-12 in the period that mattered. Handing the Pirates their first loss of the season, the Bobcats went home with a 44-39 victory.

“I give them (Ignacio) a lot of credit for playing a very good game,” Sorenson said. Unwilling to discuss the problems facing his team, Sorenson only said, “We were back to not scoring and not being consistent.”

Ross led in scoring with 11 points, followed by Kain Lucero with ten and Jones with seven.

As of Tuesday, the Pirates held at eighth in the Denver Post Preps rankings despite having won decisively against the 4A Demons. Although Rifle slipped to ninth in the same rankings, it’s inexplicable why the Bears are still in the top ten having lost their last two games, one of those against Montezuma-Cortez (who lost to Gunnison in Pagosa Springs on Dec. 10).

Colorado Preps rankings moved Pagosa up to fourth, just behind Faith Christian (1) and Kent Denver (2), both with a 7-1 record, and behind 7-0 Weld Central.

It will be interesting to see if a win against a 4A team and a loss against a 2A team will be cancelled out in ranking placement for the Pirates.

Tomorrow night at 7 p.m. (the girls play at 5:30 p.m.), the Pirates host the (3-3) Centauri Falcons for the first of two league games this weekend.

The Pirates travel to Bayfield on Saturday for a league match against their perennial rivals, the Wolverines (6-2). Although Bayfield swapped games with the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers, losing 41-35 at the Cortez Invitational on Dec. 4 then winning 53-48 during a Dec. 7 home game (the Panthers never qualified to challenge the Pirates during the Dec. 10-11 Wolf Creek Classic), the Pirates face some tough competition and some height with 6-foot-9 post Derek Hillyer and 6-6 guard Seth Posey.

jim@pagosasun.com