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Pirates beat No. 3 Jefferson to clinch tourney title

Staff Writer

The Pagosa Springs Pirates rocked the Buena Vista Varsity Invitational Basketball Tournament last weekend, facing Denver Science and Tech at 8:30 p.m. on Friday night, Buena Vista at 11:30 Saturday morning and Jefferson Academy at 5:30 Saturday evening, and while the boys dominated the court against their first two opponents, the third game was a nail-biter to the very end.

“We feel that we had a very successful weekend up in Buena Vista,” coach Randy Sorenson said. “All three games were very competitive and we had to play good basketball to get victories in all three games.”

The Pirates took on the Knights from Denver Science and Tech Stapleton for their first game of the tournament Friday night and emerged with a 78-57 victory.

Sorenson described the Knights as, “a very athletic team that had some really quick kids that could score the basketball, and they had very active hands defensively. They also had a kid that was seven feet tall and he was a big presence in the middle.”

Nevertheless, it didn’t stop the Pirates from outscoring the Knights through all four quarters: 21-16, 27-16, 12-11, and 18-14.

“There was a lot of offense in this game and it was fun to watch,” Sorenson beamed. “Our kids did a great job of not being intimidated and attacked them offensively. All five of our starters scored in double figures. That was nice to see.”

Kain Lucero made 23 points, including five from the 3-point range and four out of six free-throws. He also got credit for nine assists. Dean Hampton and Garek Erskine each had 15 points, Zachariah Griego had 13, and Quinn Smith had 12. Hampton had seven assists, Smith and Griego each had four, and Erskine had two.

“Defensively, we needed to do a better job of getting out to shooters and stopping dribble penetration,” Sorenson admitted. “Even though it was a twenty point win, the game was much closer than that.”

Smith led the defense with 12 rebounds and two steals, Erskine and Griego each had 11 rebounds, Lucero had three rebounds and three steals, Hampton had three rebounds and one steal, and Luke DeVooght and DeAngelo Guthrie both had one rebound. Erskine also blocked three shots and got credit for one steal.

“They cut the lead to twelve at one point in the second half,” Sorenson explained, “and if they had made a couple more shots at that time in the game, we might have been in trouble. We never felt comfortable until the game was over.”

The Pirates had 16 turnovers while the Knights only had 10.

The next day, the Pirates took on the Buena Vista Demons, leading 18-10 for the first quarter, 15-8 for the second, and 13-8 for the third. Things fell apart a bit in the last quarter, with the demons outscoring the Pirates 13-8, but it wasn’t enough to catch up and, in the end, the Pirates won 54-39.

“We were a little sluggish at times,” Sorenson admitted, “but played well enough to win. Buena Vista is always tough to beat at home, so it was another good win.”

Lucero, Griego and Hampton were the top three scorers against the Demons with 17, 14 and 12 points, respectively, while Lucero had five assists and Hampton and Erskine each had three. Erskine shined on defense with seven rebounds, six blocked shots and two steals. The Pirates only had seven turnovers during the game, while the Demons had 17.

“We were able to play all of the kids on the roster,” Sorenson explained. “We are really proud of the younger and less-experienced kids. They played well and allowed us to give the starters some much needed rest. The starters had played lots of minutes the night before and needed fresh legs for the second game of the day against Jefferson Academy.”

Just a few short hours after defeating the Demons, the Pirates took the court against the Jefferson Academy Jaguars, the third-ranked team in Colorado 3A.

“It was a low scoring, defensive affair,” Sorenson described the game. “The Jaguars have lots of talented players and are well-coached. They not only have kids who can score from outside, but also kids who can play inside. They are a physical team that plays great help defense.”

By the end of the first quarter, the Jaguars had a slight lead, 13-12, and, by the end of the first half, they were still only one point ahead, 20-19. The third quarter didn’t look good for the Pirates, either, who scored eight more points while they let the Jaguars have nine points. Late in the fourth quarter it looked like the Pirates might have to accept their first defeat of the season.

“Neither team ever got more than a four-point lead until the last two or three minutes of the game,” Sorenson admitted, “until we were able to get a four-point lead due to great hustle and heart by our kids.”

The Pirates nearly scored more points in the last quarter than they did during the rest of the game, earning 26 more points, while the Jaguars scraped together only 11, making the final score 53-40 in favor of the Pirates.

“Once we were able to get a slight lead that late,” Sorenson explained, “we were able to get into our slowdown game and they had to foul us. We were able to convert free-throws and pull away. We were 22 for 25 from the free-throw line in this game.”

Lucero had 24 points total, and while two of his baskets were from the 3-point range, he made all ten of his free-throw attempts. Erskine’s 11 points included five out of six free-throw attempts, Smith’s nine points included five out of seven from the free-throw line, and half of Griego’s four points were from free-throws. Hampton had five points, one 2-pointer and one 3-pointer.

“It was a great high school basketball game between two good teams,” Sorenson said. “Our pregame talk was about finding a way to win no matter what it took, and the kids did just that. We are really proud of them. They were able to win a high-scoring game, as well as a low scoring defensive battle. It is nice to know that they were able to adjust to two different styles of play.”

For the last game of 2012, the Pirates take on the Ignacio Bobcats tomorrow night at Pagosa Springs High School.

“We still have lots to improve on,” Sorenson admitted. “Our interior defense is pretty good, but we still struggle guarding on the perimeter. We need to get better at getting out to shooters and getting pressure on the ball. We also need to be more patient on offense at times and make other teams work hard defensively.”

Ignacio is ranked eighth in the state in Class 2A, and the traditional rivalry between the Pirates and the Bobcats should make for a close, competitive game.

“Hopefully we can get lots of fan support, as this should be another really good high school basketball game,” Sorenson said. “Ignacio will bring lots of fans with them, so we need to get lots of our own fans to the game.”

ed.fincher@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on December 20, 2012.