Taking his shot from behind the 3-point line, down by three, with less than a second on the clock, varsity Pagosa Springs Pirate Tyson Ross’s Hail Mary came down on the rim, bounced back up a good four feet, and dropped straight through the net — sending the game into overtime.
For an instant, the ball was the focus of every eye in the arena, the conjurer of a moment of absolute silence, and a metaphor for the Pirate’s performance for their back-to-back home games this past weekend.
Hosting Monte Vista Friday night on their home court, the Pirates made their first conference game of the season showing taut, aggressive and cohesive play. Coming out strong in the first period, junior Jordan Caler took the leadoff score, driving to the boards for an easy 2 points. Fouled just moments later, Caler capitalized, making both shots, helping build a momentum that carried the Pirates to a 14-6 lead.
Sophomore Zach Lucero got the leadoff score in the second period, pushing the pedal down and driving the Pirate’s momentum forward. Beleaguered by mistakes and penalties, Monte Vista found themselves outshot — a 3-point bullseye by the freshman Ross, for instance — and outplayed — an excellent steal, break-away, and score by freshman Curt Lewis, in another instance giving the Pirates a 35-22 lead at the half.
With a 13-point advantage going into the second half, the Pirates appeared relaxed, confident. Maintaining an aggressive style, the intensity slackened a bit, yet the boys managed to build on their lead, outscoring their opponents 18-13 in the quarter and expanding their lead to 53-35.
Whistles started blowing against the Pirates late in the third period, a malaise that spilled into the final quarter of the game. With nothing left in their playbook, Monte Vista attempted to capitalize on penalties — a desperate strategy, bound to fail. With the Pirates up by 23 points with only two minutes and 30 seconds left in the game, fouls drawn by Monte Vista players bought only enough time to drop their deficit to 14 points, losing 71-57 to Pagosa.
“We pretty much dominated that game from start to finish,” said Coach Jim Shaffer. “The score doesn’t reflect how well we played.”
Junior Taylor Shaffer led the boys in scoring with an outstanding 17 points, followed by 14 points scored by Lewis. Senior pointman John Jewell finished with 12 points for the game, with Caler scoring 8 points.
Riding the wave of their first conference victory, the Pirates swept back onto their home court on Saturday to meet the challenge of a powerhouse 10-1 Alamosa Mean Moose. Packed with a talented senior squad, the Moose came to Pagosa with just one loss — handed to them by top-ranked Pueblo South.
Despite the seeming mismatch of a seasoned, sixth-ranked 4A team challenging a young, unranked 3A team, the Pirates rose to the occasion, playing with a level of intensity from the tipoff that put the Moose on notice.
Junior Taylor Shaffer put the first points on the board, drawing a foul during the score and capitalizing on the free throw, giving Pagosa a solid 3-0 start. Doing well in establishing their rhythm, Pagosa boys finished the first period with a 3-point shot by Caler at the buzzer. Advantage Pirates, 15-9 over the Moose.
The Moose came back in the second period, answering the Pirates’ intensity in a hard-fought quarter. Outscoring the Pirates 10-9 in the period, Alamosa mustered some advantage over calls that went their way. A foul on Tyson Ross, blown after the shot was made but not crediting the basket, was just one instance throughout the rest of game that raised the ire of many Pagosa fans. Still, Pagosa finished the half on top with a 24-19 lead.
Alamosa entered the third period strong, protecting their goals well and capitalizing on numerous stolen balls. At 6-7, Jewell answered on defense, blocking several potential Moose points. Following another hard-fought period, Alamosa managed to take the lead for the first time with three successful foul-shots, outscoring Pagosa 11-6 in the quarter and leading 31-30 going into the final period.
Holding the lead, Alamosa appeared prepared to take the game back from the Pirates during the fourth quarter. With intense offense by both squads and aggressive play that put both teams in a free-throw position, the game came down to the final seconds.
A steal and breakaway layup by Alamosa senior point guard Ryan Esquibel led to an easy free throw, with 10 seconds left in the game, giving Alamosa a 3-point lead. Driving down court in the final seconds of the game, the Pirates set up the 3-point Hail Mary by Tyson Ross, sending the game into overtime.
In the 4-minute OT period, it came down to a matter of endurance and it was Alamosa’s seasoned players who held the advantage. Despite the elation derived from the game-tying Ross field goal, the Pirates were unable to match the Moose in the end, taking a heartbreaking 58-53 loss against Alamosa.
“It was as well as we’ve played in two years,” said Coach Shaffer, “We really did our best against an older, well-coached, sixth-ranked 4A team.”
Regarding the officiating, Shaffer agreed that many of the calls didn’t work to the Pirates’ advantage, but added, “We can’t blame the game on the officiating.”