A hard fought battle against the ninth ranked 2A Indians in Sanford on Tuesday night looked to hand the Pirates their first loss of the season. However, a late game rally kept the Pirates on top, giving Pagosa a 47-37 victory. Following a 48-22 win against the Mean Moose in Alamosa on Friday and a 51-27 win in Pagosa Springs against the Monte Vista Pirates on Saturday, the Pirates remain unbeaten with a 13-0 record and lead the Intermountain League at 4-0.
Traveling to Alamosa on Friday, the Pirates met a former 4A team (recently added to the 3A IML).
“They’ve gotten a lot better,” said coach Wes Lewis, saying that Alamosa’s record doesn’t reflect the team’s abilities. “They’ve been playing teams really tight.”
The Mean Moose were unable to improve their record with season-long home-court advantage. Unable to put together any kind of offensive attack against a far superior Pagosa defense while helpless against the Pirate’s formidable offense, Alamosa was as hapless as almost any team pounded by Pagosa this season. Held to single digits for all four quarters, Alamosa was never really in the game.
Coming out with a strong press (that eventually proved their undoing as players quickly tired out), the Mean Moose held the Pirates to just nine points in the first quarter, but managed only four of their own. In the second quarter, the Pirates’ offense located and took advantage of the holes in Alamosa’s press, while holding to a zone that the Mean Moose could not penetrate. Outscoring Alamosa 11-5, the Pirates left the half with a 19-9 advantage, a testament to a defensive match to which Pagosa had the upper hand.
While whatever was said in the Mean Moose locker room led to their best scoring quarter of the game — nine points — it fell on deaf ears as to defense, with the Pirates racking up 17 points in the third, expanding their lead to 37-18 going into the final quarter.
Spent, and facing a Pirate B-squad no friendlier than the Pagosa bigs, Alamosa couldn’t produce anything like a decent challenge; outscored 11-4 in the final period, the Mean Moose took a 48-22 trouncing at home, falling to 2-10.
Mary Brinton led the Pirates in scoring on Friday with 23 points, 14 rebounds and 13 blocks, followed by Breezy Bryant with 12 points and seven assists. Freshman Taylor Strohecker finished third in scoring with five points.
Facing ninth ranked Monte Vista (in Denver Post Preps rankings) on Saturday night at home, many fans thought (hoped) that the Pirates would be held to a higher standard. While Pagosa left a lot to be desired from the free-throw line (shooting a dismal 39 percent, missing out on 33 possible points), strong defense and pitch-perfect offense again carried the day.
“We were ready to play,” Lewis said, “and we played well.”
The fact that Pagosa had 54 opportunities at the foul line speaks volumes of a Monte Vista defensive strategy that failed miserably. An aggressive press went terribly wrong for Monte Vista, putting several key players in foul trouble in the first quarter (two starters with three fouls in the first adding to 11 team fouls). In the meantime, the Pirates took advantage of Monte’s inability to control the backboard and the dribble; selfish on rebounds and capitalizing on turnovers, Pagosa found themselves easily ahead with a 15-3 scoring advantage.
With an aggressive defensive posture that held several key players on the bench, Monte was unable to hold Pagosa out of the paint or grab the ball. Relying on the offensive and defensive skills of Ashley Pacheco (scoring nearly 60 percent of Monte’s points and staying relatively free of foul trouble while carrying the lion’s share of defense outside the perimeter), Monte Vista could not win the race, falling 12-9 in the second quarter and leaving the half with a 27-12 deficit.
Confident in the depth of his team’s bench, Lewis had begun cycling in B-team players early in the second quarter. Whether or not this had a psychological effect on Monte remains a question for the ages, but it was apparent that the MV Pirates had lost any hopes for a victory more than halfway into the third period. With 13 unanswered points until five minutes into the third, it was clear that, even with a majority of Pagosa B-players holding court, Monte couldn’t mount an offense or defense that would carry the day.
With two key players benched on fouls, Canaday flooded the floor with his B-team with two minutes left in the game. Lewis had begun emptying his bench as early as the second quarter. Monte outscored Pagosa 7-5 for the final period and the Pirates sent their namesakes home with a 51-27 defeat.
“They ran into our defense and we played really well,” Lewis said. “I thought we were good on both sides of the ball.”
After a brief rest, the Pirates took the long bus ride to Sanford to challenge a 2A team that has consistently played above its division this season. On their home court, the Indians were not intimidated by a top-ranked 3A team coming into their house bringing a perfect record and state-wide notoriety.
Ranked ninth in state 2A in both Denver Post and Colorado Preps polls, the Indians played harder than many of the 3A teams the Pirates had faced this season. Despite allowing the Pirates to get out to a nine-point lead in the first, outscored 16-7 in the quarter, Sanford came back with a vengeance, holding Pagosa to just six points in the second while scoring ten of their own, leaving the half down just 22-17.
Putting up a noble effort, the Indians just couldn’t stop the Pirates in the second half. Outscored 15-12 in the third and 10-8 in the fourth, the Indians just couldn’t make up the deficit (despite moving within four points late in the final quarter).
“They played a really good defense,” Lewis said. “We missed some easy shots. We had a lot of opportunities to put it away and we just couldn’t seem to get over the hump, but neither could they. We’d get out ahead by ten and then they’d pull it close, but we pulled it out in the end.”
Outspent on offense and defense, the Indians took their first loss at home, giving the Pirates a 47-37 victory, falling to 10-3 for the season.
Bryant led in scoring for the night with 21 points, followed by Brinton with 14 and Kraetsch with seven points.
“It was a good game for us,” Lewis said. “We needed a tough game like that.”
The Pirates remain ranked second in state 3A basketball behind Broomfield’s Holy Family Eagles — state champs for the past three years.
While Pagosa Springs has defeated top-ten ranked teams from both polls (Monte Vista this week, the Centauri Falcons 41-25 on Jan. 14), the Pirates face a completely different level of competition if and when they travel to Fort Collins in March.
Tonight, the Pirates host the 4A Farmington Scorpions, a team coming to Pagosa at 3-15.
Conceding he knows little about how the Scorpions play, Lewis said, “We’ll just go play our game and see what comes out.”
The Pirates remain home on Saturday to give the (3-9, 1-2 in the IML) Bayfield Wolverines a chance for payback on their Jan. 15, 51-32 loss at home.
“That’s the game of the week,” Lewis said. “We’ve got to be somewhat semi-focused on them,” referring to the fact that, having beat the Wolverines previously, every conference match matters.