Pirate basketball teams back to the fray Friday

Coming off a long winter break, made longer by game and practice cancellations due to weather, Pirate boys’ and girls’ varsity basketball return to the boards tomorrow night for a nonleague game against the Salida Spartans, in Salida.

“We were 2-2 at the break,” said boys’ coach Jim Shaffer, “and the game (with Salida on Dec. 20) that was cancelled hurt us a bit. We haven’t played in over a month.

“I thought our kids came back and did some good things,” Shaffer added, “They should be back on track after a normal week of practice.”

Colorado law prevents schools from playing or practicing from Dec. 24 until Jan. 1, the only state with that prohibition. While the winter break is traditionally a time for high school athletic tournaments throughout the U.S., Colorado prep athletes remain idle during the break.

Although the Pirates missed an opportunity to prove themselves at home against the Spartans last month, they get another bite at the apple when they travel to Salida this Friday. “Friday is a huge test for us,” said Shaffer, referring to the match against an out-of-conference 3A team that is currently 4-1. “Salida is really good, as good as any team we’ve played all season.

“We’re not going to win if we haven’t shot the ball,” Shaffer said, expressing some frustration at the Pirates’ relative offensive weakness. “We’re thirty-percent from the field and we need to be between forty and sixty-percent.

“Defensively, we’re doing good,” the coach went on to say, “Holding our opponents to forty-two points a game. We need to try and come up with some offense out of our defense.”

“Our biggest challenge for the rest of the season is coming out with a good offense,” Shaffer said.

Assessing the team’s chances within the Intermountain 3A conference, Shaffer said, “We have a chance to be in the thick of things. Bayfield and Monte Vista are strong and have a lot of returning players. We’re a young team with two freshman and a sophomore in the top seven.”

The Pirates return to conference play Friday, Jan. 16, when they host Monte Vista at the high school gym then step back out of conference the next night, hosting the undefeated 4A Alamosa Mean Moose.

The Pirates girls make the trip to Salida tomorrow to challenge an undefeated powerhouse, ranked fifth in state 3A girl’s basketball.

“It was unfortunate to have the last game cancelled,” said coach Wes Lewis, “Winter time in Pagosa is never a sure thing. I’m just glad we have an opportunity for another shot at them.”

Lewis viewed the missed game and the long winter break with mixed blessings. “It gave the kids a chance to overcome illness and injuries that were plaguing us,” he said, “We’re not as rusty as we could have been.

“We’re getting back our rhythm,” he added.

Cautiously optimistic about his Pirates’ chances against the Spartans in Salida, Lewis said, “I think we have a chance to win. If we don’t turn over the ball, shoot well from the free-throw line, and don’t get dominated at the boards, we have a real shot at them.

“Salida has a really good post player in Sammi Gentile,” Lewis added, “And good guards around her. Our girls will have to work on their shooting and their half-court offense to counter that.”

Lewis pointed out that the Pirates’ depth stands in their favor, with a talented young team showing ample spirit. “Mary Brinton was a Wolf Creek Classic all-tournament player and has been doing a nice job of finishing at the basket,” Lewis said, “Breezy Bryant has been outstanding as well.”

Both girls are in their sophomore years and that bodes well for the team, both through this season and in the coming years.

“It will be interesting heading down the stretch,” Lewis said.

Pirate girls host Monte Vista on Jan. 16 at 5:30 p.m. for a conference game, then meet Alamosa at home the next night, also at 5:30 p.m., for an out-of-conference game.


SUN photo/Jim McQuiggin
A moment of air, just before dropping into the net — an apt metaphor for Pirate varsity basketball, idle during the long winter break, net action resuming Friday with a road trip to Salida.