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Pirates ‘really pulling it together,’ face Bayfield Saturday

Moving back up in state 3A rankings after a setback two weeks ago (up one to number five in Colorado Preps, up two slots in Denver Post polls to number six), the Pirates made good on their promise and prominence by taking down the Mean Moose in Alamosa 59-53 on Friday, sinking the Monte Vista Pirates in Pagosa Springs 81-35 on Saturday, then scoring another road win in Sanford, and defeating the Indians 70-26 on Tuesday night.

With Saturday’s win, the Pirates showed clear domination in the Intermountain League with a 4-0 record, while Tuesday’s victory took Pagosa to a 12-1 record for the season.

“The kids are really pulling it together,” said coach Randy Sorenson. “That’s what I’ve been waiting for all season — they’re out there playing with a smile on their faces and with a lot of class. They’re really playing as a team, finally.”

Traveling to Alamosa, the Pirates had revenge on their minds. Losing against a 4A team last year, Pagosa lost their game in the final seconds a year ago after a questionable foul allowed the Mean Moose to take the game from the foul line.

Unwilling to give 7-5 Alamosa any such chances this time around, the Pirates nonetheless had to scramble in the final minutes to insure IML dominance (Alamosa dropped to 3A this year to join the league). Like last year, the Pirates got off to a strong start, pressing a tough defense and using a quick and relentless offense to get out to a commanding lead, outscoring Alamosa 17-8 in the first quarter. Unfortunately, like last year, the Pirates slipped in their game and allowed the Mean Moose some opportunity to close the gap. Still outscoring their opponents 14-13 in the second quarter (leaving the half with a 31-21 advantage), the Pirates seemed intent on repeating mistakes they’d made the year before — inconsistent performance inside the paint, an inability to follow through and a propensity to turn over the ball when the going was getting good.

Yet, despite being outscored 15-12 in the third and 17-16 in the fourth, the Pirates were able to hold onto the clear lead built in the first. Certainly not the way most basketball games are won, it was enough to put another tick in Pagosa’s win column.

“We were lucky to get a win there,” Sorenson said. “They’re a good team and it’s a tough place to play. That was a huge league win for us.”

Tyson Ross led in scoring with 19 points, followed by Zerek Jones with 17 points and Zach Lucero with 13 points.

At home on Saturday night, the Pirates revived their consistency and their momentum, defeating Monte Vista.

Although the Pirates got no love outside the perimeter (where the three-point bucket has decimated teams all season), defense held, while driving into the paint more than got the job done. Exhibiting precision and teamwork on the breakaway layup, Pagosa led 21-5 at the end of the first quarter, following up with an 18-5 second that all but cinched up the game, with Pagosa going into the half with a 39-10 lead.

“Monte’s a really young team,” Sorenson said. “We just got out there and did the things that we’re good at.”

Although Sorenson pretty much began putting his younger guys into the game early in the second quarter, Monte Vista couldn’t mount an attack on either offense or defense, letting the JV Pagosa boys have their way with them. Outscored 23-19 in the third (giving Pagosa a 53-29 lead going into the fourth), Monte coach Ty McConnell made the final period a JV game to the end. With Pagosa Springs outshooting Monte 19-6 in the fourth, the 81-35 score marked the end of a game few will remember.

Ross again led in scoring with a career high 34 points, along with nine rebounds and seven steals. Zach Lucero followed with 10 points and Daniel Puskas scored five.

On the road in Sanford on Tuesday night, the Pirates made easy work of the 2A Indians, returning home with a 70-26 victory. Ross led with 29 points followed by Kain Lucero with eight points. Unfortunately, all other stats were unavailable as of press time Wednesday.

Sorenson said that the Sanford game (like the Monte Vista win) gave him the opportunity to give floor time to his B-squad.

“The young kids got a lot of floor time,” he said. “There weren’t any varsity players out there in the fourth, not many in the game in the third and even in the second quarter, we were giving the young kids some floor time.”

It remains to be seen if the younger players will get much game experience tonight, facing a New Mexico team that, for all intents and purposes, remains something of a mystery.

Hosting the 4A Farmington, N.M. Scorpions (5-12) tonight at 7 p.m., the Pirates face an opponent that could provide surprises for a team that needs to overcome inconsistencies that will subvert post-season aspirations.

“They’ll be a tough opponent,” Sorenson said. “They’re a big school. I would think it’s going to be a battle.”

Home again on Saturday (again, at 7 p.m.), the Pirates give their league rivals from Bayfield, the underestimated Wolverines, a second bite at the apple. Nine-3 as of Tuesday night and 2-1 in the IML (having defeated the Centauri Falcons 58-45 in La Jara last Friday and sneaking by Alamosa 82-81 at home the next night), the Wolverines will not just be looking for revenge, but will be aiming for the big bulls-eye on the back of a team that moved up to fifth and sixth place in various state 3A rankings this week — and has shown itself to be quick and deadly at times, wildly inconsistent at others.

Sorenson said, “That’s another huge league game for us against a really good team.”

With 6-5 striker like Seth Posey (Bayfield’s leading scorer) and 6-9 Derek Hillyer leading a big offensive attack, the Wolverines could well prove to be the Pirate’s spoiler this season.

“We’d better be prepared to play, that’s a huge game for us,” said Sorenson.

jim@pagosasun.com