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Pirate girls finish fourth at state tournament

The Pirates finally managed to do something they haven’t done all season: not only lose a game, but lose two in a row, finishing fourth in this year’s state basketball championships after being upset on Friday and Saturday.

After hitting five straight free-throws in the final seconds of Thursday night’s game to seal a 35-34 victory over the Estes Park Bobcats, the Pirates lost 38-33 to the seventh-ranked Eaton Reds on Friday night. On Saturday afternoon, the 20th-ranked Jefferson Academy Jaguars defeated the Pirates 41-36 to deny Pagosa a third-place finish in the state championship.

According to coach Wes Lewis, “It (Thursday’s contest with Estes Park) was a real back-and-forth game. Brooklynn DuCharme hit some free throws down the stretch, going seven-for-eleven and scoring 14 points for us, but it was a real defensive battle to the end.”

Getting ahead by a single point at the end of the first quarter, up 9-8, the Pirates lost that advantage going into the half after being outscored 10-9 in the second, with both teams leaving the floor on an 18-18 tie.

That defensive battle was evident in the third as Estes Park went ahead with a single point lead, outscoring the Pirates 5-4. It was DuCharme who helped Pagosa over the top in the final seconds of the game, hitting five straight free throws and, with the Pirates taking a 13-11 scoring advantage in the fourth, narrowly edged the Bobcats 35-34 to move onto Friday’s Final Four round.

DuCharme led the Pirates in scoring with 14 points, followed by Mary Brinton with 13 points and a team-leading 11 rebounds. Breezy Bryant finished with six points while Destiny Soto led the team in assists and steals, logging two each.

Regarding Friday’s game against the Eaton Reds, Lewis said, “It was the same kind of deal, two evenly matched teams.”

Indeed, a low scoring affair pretty much throughout, the Pirates’ 6-5 advantage in the first was erased when the Reds outscored Pagosa 14-7 in the second, taking a 19-13 lead over the Pirates going into the second.

However, the Pirates adjusted and applied heavy defensive pressure going into the third, outscoring Eaton 11-3 and grabbing a slight two-point lead as Pagosa went into the fourth up 24-22.

“We had things going our way,” Lewis said. “We were up six in the first half of the fourth.”

According to Lewis, at that point the Reds had trapped Brinton near mid-court, forcing a turnover on a questionable call. Unfortunately, it was one of those situations that shifts the momentum of a game and, with the Reds capitalizing on that pivotal call, the opponents took a 16-9 scoring advantage in the fourth and the game with a 38-33 victory.

“We lost by five, but the score was probably closer than that,” Lewis said.

Brinton led the team with 21 points and 16 rebounds, with DuCharme finishing a distant second with six points and leading the team with two assists.

Having been eliminated from the championship finals on Friday, Lewis reported that the team grew dispirited going into Saturday’s third-place playoff.

“A year makes a big difference; it’s not what our goal had been when we started our season. Going undefeated and ranked second in the state all year, the fact that we played for third-place on Saturday was not why we gone that far all season long.”

After the Jaguars got off to an early 12-8 lead at the end of the first, the Pirates led the second 7-5 in the second, going into the half down 17-15. Unfortunately, the Pirates were outscored in both quarters of the second half, 14-12 in the third and 10-9 in the fourth, consigned to fourth-place in the state 3A championship tournament.

Regarding Saturday’s 41-36 loss to Jefferson Academy, Lewis conceded that the Pirates had lost heart after Friday’s loss.

“When we lost on Friday,” Lewis said, “the girls were flat and disappointed. It wasn’t what they played for all year.

“It was a tough game. If we played that team (Jefferson Academy) 10 times this year, we’d win nine of those games.”

Brinton led the team with 21 points followed by DuCharme with four points. No other stats were available as of press time Wednesday.

With the loss of four seniors this year (Brinton, Bryant, Magan Kraetsch, Sienna Stretton and Kyrra Condon), Lewis acknowledged that he will be coaching a different team next year.

“We’re going to change things up a bit. We’ll have a different face of the team,” he said.

With DuCharme and Soto moving into the senior leadership positions next year, Lewis is confident he will have a squad that can again make the trip to Fort Collins.

“We still have a really good team. We have a JV squad that went 17-2 this year,” Lewis said.

“We’ll probably start the season looking to make it to the Great Eight,” he added.

This year’s graduating seniors will be the first group Lewis coached all four years.

“It’s always hard to say good-bye to your seniors, but this year it’s really tough. These kids worked really hard. When they first came on board, we were struggling to win 10 games a season and they worked hard to get us where we’re at,” Lewis said.

Lewis said, “It was a real pleasure to work with these kids. They’re really good basketball players, but more importantly, they’re really good people. That’s what I’ll miss about them — the quality of people that they are.”

jim@pagosasun.com

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