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After a successful two days of play against Academy and Lamar last weekend to garner entrance into the Great 8, the Lady Pirates are in Fort Collins this week, vying for the state’s top spot in girls’ 3A basketball.
That action begins today, Thursday, when the Pirates (20-3 overall), take on Denver Science and Tech (22-2 overall) at 10:15 a.m. in Fort Collins.
Other than league rival Centauri, Denver Science and Tech is the only team to have beaten the Lady Pirates this season. The Knights also spent much of the season ranked No. 1 in the state in several polls.
“We know we’ve got our work cut out for us in the first game,” coach Wes Lewis said Tuesday.
Lewis characterized the Knights as being athletic, having size, and possessing an overall quickness.
“They’re a really good basketball team,” Lewis said.
But there is a chance.
Lewis said the Pirates have a deeper bench than the Knights, which would come in handy in the event of foul trouble, but that the team has to be successful with free throws, rebounding, and not having turnovers.
The winner of the Pagosa-Denver Tech game will advance to play on Friday at 8:30 p.m., against either Holy Family or Trinidad. The winner of Friday’s game goes to the championship game Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
“We really, honestly don’t know who our next opponent will be,” Lewis said.
Also remaining in the girls’ Great8 are Centauri, Bishop Machebeuf, Kent Denver and St. Mary’s.
En route to Fort Collins, the Pirates hosted the first two rounds of state action last weekend at a regional tournament.
First, the girls took on The Academy Friday, defeating the Wildcats 48-23, with the Pirates outscoring the visitors in every quarter (5-3, 15-4, 15-11, 13-5).
The game, however, got off to a slow start for the Pirates, who scored only five in the first quarter.
“We definitely start slow,” Lewis said, adding that, fortunately, the team’s defense has traditionally been sharp enough to keep the team in the game.
“I thought it was really, really balanced,” Lewis said of the win. “It was a team win. Everyone contributed in some way or form.”
In the game, nine different Lady Pirates scored (the team was aiming to preserve energy for the next day’s match), with Taylor Strohecker leading the way with 16 points, along with six rebounds, two blocks, three steals and one assist.
Payton Shahan followed with 10 points, as well as 11 rebounds and seven steals.
Emily Bryant scored five in the game, also rebounding three times, recording three steals and three assists.
In other scoring, Taylor Lee Hammer and Anissa Lucero each tallied three, Page Lloyd, Haleigh Zenz and Morgan Schaaf each contributed two, and Shannel Wilson added one.
In other stats, Madison Lewis rebounded six times, while Zenz and Schaaf added three rebounds each. Lloyd added one.
The team had 19 steals on the day, and went 12-for-17 from the charity stripe.
With that win in the books, Pagosa took on Lamar Saturday afternoon, with the Pirates going down by five in the first quarter.
The Pirates would score only two free throws in the first quarter to oppose Lamar’s seven, but went on to outscore the Savages in the remaining three quarters (9-3, 11-10, 8-6) to win by a narrow 30-26 margin, thanks to several key plays by Shahan, Madison Lewis, Strohecker and Schaaf.
“We knew Lamar was a really good basketball team before they got here,” coach Lewis said.
In fact, the Pirates led by only one point at halftime.
Again, Lewis credited his team’s defense, which held Lamar standouts Taylor Wertz and Chelsea Vallejos to a combined 13 points.
“Everybody contributed in that win,” Lewis said, with the JV helping to prepare for the game the prior week. “That was a win that had everybody’s fingerprint on it.”
In the physical game, Strohecker walked away with 12 points, Bryant and Shahan each notched six, Lucero added four and Schaaf added two.
Strohecker rebounded seven times, blocked twice and recorded one steal and one assist. Shahan notched five rebounds.
Bryant and Schaaf each rebounded once, with Bryant adding one block, two steals and three assists. Schaaf added one block and one assist.
Madison Lewis added one steal, and Lucero notched one steal and three assists.
The team went 9-for-14 on free throws and turned the ball over 10 times.