The Pirates ended their regular season inauspiciously with a heartbreaking 34-28 loss in La Jara on Tuesday after grabbing a big 64-32 win in Monte Vista last Friday.
The Pirates arrived in Monte Vista on Friday night looking like the team that has been highly ranked in 3A all season, to face a team that looked like it deserved its 0-6 IML record.
“As I’ve said before,” said Pirates coach Randy Sorenson of Monte, “they’re a young and inexperienced team.”
The Pirates were never in danger of giving up command of the floor during any quarter. Outscoring Monte 16-2 in the first and 23-12 in the second, Pagosa went into the half with a big 39-14 lead.
The second half was no better for Monte as Pagosa continued to dominate. The Pirates outscored their hosts 15-8 in the third, pushing their lead to 54-22 going into the final quarter.
Flooding the floor with JV players, Sorenson gave Monte its only chance to get in the game. With a quarter tied at 10-10, the Pirates once again proved their conference dominance with a 64-32 win.
“We were able to get lot of young kids out on the floor,” Sorenson said. “I think they really rose to the challenge. I was proud that the kids didn’t play down to their (Monte Vista’s) level. We played Pirate basketball. We did what we do best.”
Kain Lucero led in scoring with 12 points, tying his brother, Zach, for a team-leading five assists (Zach led the team with four steals). Tyson Ross led with five blocks and took second in scoring with 11 points. Zerek Jones led with nine rebounds and finished third in scoring with 10 points.
On a Tuesday night when the Centauri Falcons had the hot hand and the Pirates couldn’t buy a bucket, Pagosa found the deck stacked against them. Unable to score in double digits but for one quarter, the Pirates played with their characteristic quick offense, but found themselves unable to execute on numerous possessions. Holding well enough on defense, the Pirates found themselves down at the end of the first period for the first time in weeks, outscored 8-5 in the quarter.
Still unable to hit anything inside or outside the perimeter, the Pirates did manage a little catch-up in the second. Continuing with a tough defense, Pagosa managed to make it a tie at the half, with a 15-15 score going into the third.
“We just couldn’t hit anything,” Sorenson said regarding the low-scoring half that looked more like Pirate quarters from earlier in the season.
Although the Pirates got no more love from the floor during the third, they managed to hold the Falcons to just four points in the quarter, going into the final period with a slight 22-19 lead. Unfortunately, the Pirate defense fell apart in the fourth with the offense still unable to connect with a bucket. Allowing the Falcons to recapture the lead early in the period, the Pirates never caught up and, outscored 15-6 in the fourth, left the game with a 34-28 defeat, their second of the season.
“We just quit playing defense and we talked after the game how we can’t just give up like that when we’re having a tough time of it,” Sorenson said.
In the low-scoring affair, Jones led with nine points while Tyson Ross captured 10 rebounds. Kain Lucero scored six points and led with four steals, tying his brother Zach for three assists. Daniel Puskas finished third in scoring with five points.
With the loss in La Jara, the Pirates finish their regular season schedule with an overall 17-2 record and 7-1 in the IML.
In the run-up to the IML playoffs, four conference teams match up tonight for games that will most likely determine the Pirates’ opponent in the first round of the tournament. The 8-9 Falcons (4-3 in the IML) host the 11-7 Alamosa Mean Moose (also with a 4-3 conference record) tonight. Coming off their big win over Pagosa on Tuesday, the Falcons could very well prove to be a spoiler against a team that has been one of the toughest in the league.
Also tonight, the 10-4 Bayfield Wolverines (3-4 in the IML) travel to Monte Vista (2-16 in season, 0-7 in the IML) for what should be an easy win for the Wolverines. With Monte coming off their 64-32 pounding by Pagosa last Friday and the Wolverines still smarting from a 54-40 defeat by the 2A Bobcats in Ignacio, the edge definitely goes to Bayfield.
Most likely, tonight’s games will result in a two-way tie for second in the IML, with two teams finishing with 4-4 conference records.
Tonight’s IML games will determine the teams playing in next Tuesday’s “pigtail” match for the IML tournament, the winner of which will face Pagosa on Friday, Feb. 25.
As far as the Pirates are concerned, they get some badly needed down time as they prepare for next weekend’s IML tournament. However, Sorenson assures that his team will be reflecting on Tuesday’s upset while working on the very things that contributed to the loss.
“We’re going to get back into the gym and get back to work on the basics,” Sorenson said.
When asked about which team the Pirates will most likely face next weekend in the tournament’s first round, Sorenson said, “I have a feeling it will be Bayfield.”