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Pirates return veteran team, take on Gunnison Friday

Tomorrow night, the Pirates boys’ basketball team will hit the court to face the Gunnison Cowboys for their traditional season-opener at the Buena Vista tournament.

Last year, the Pirates won the first game, defeating the Cowboys 66-40 then went on to take the tournament crown the following night by defeating the Buena Vista Demons 62-54.

Tournament participants remain the same this year, with the 4A Woodland Park Panthers rounding out the lineup.

The Pirates return this season from a respectable third-place finish in the state 3A basketball championship last fall. After defeating the fourth-ranked Machebeuf Buffaloes 64-57 in the first round, Pagosa was denied a chance at the finals when the top-ranked Faith Christian Eagles beat the Pirates 48-30. However, Pagosa scored their second victory of the tournament on Saturday, edging out the third-ranked Valley Vikings 53-50 to take third-place.

With four seniors and eight juniors on the squad (several returning starters with championship tournament experience), the Pirates could well repeat last year’s performance, if not go all the way.

“We should have a good season,” said Coach Randy Sorenson. “We basically have 12 good players. We’re deeper than we were last year and we’ll have an opportunity to get a lot of kids out there on the floor.”

When asked if his coaching strategy would be any different this season, Sorenson responded, “Not at all.

“We’re just getting out there and pressing. Push the ball on offense. And take advantage of our quickness and speed.

“Like always, it begins with defense,” Sorenson added.

While the season could end in Fort Collins, it certainly begins in Buena Vista and Sorenson said his team is focused on this weekend’s tournament. While conceding that the Panthers are an unknown variable this year, he said he felt that the games on Friday and Saturday will be a good test for his team.

“I don’t know a lot about Gunnison but they do have a good point guard and they’re always well coached,” Sorenson said.

Regarding the Demons, Sorenson said, “They’re young but they have some big kids. And it’s always tough to play them in Buena Vista.”

Indeed, the Pirates struggled against the Demons last season during the first-round regional playoffs when the Pirates narrowly defeated Buena Vista 34-31 in Pagosa Springs during the final seconds of the game, moving on to the state championship tournament.

The Demons will most certainly be looking to hand out some comeuppance if the two teams are matched up on Saturday.

The Pirates take the floor at 5:30 p.m. against the Cowboys and, if Pagosa prevails, will play at 7 p.m. the next night in the tournament championship game. A loss tomorrow night will have the Pirates taking the floor at 4 p.m. on Saturday

jim@pagosasun.com

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