Pagosa Springs wins IML, hosts state playoffs

After snatching a victory the previous night in the Monte Vista High School gym against Centauri in the first round of the Intermountain League Tournament, the Pirate boys returned Saturday night for the conference championship, facing the Bayfield Wolverines for IML top honors.

From the start, it was clear who would be conference champions. Outscoring Bayfield 17-13 in the opening quarter, Pagosa continued applying pressure in the second period, outscoring the Wolverines 21-11, taking the halftime break with a 38-24 lead.

“We played really well, right from the start,” said Coach Jim Shaffer. “I thought we came out and determined the outcome of the game.”

The Pirates continued their merciless attack in the third quarter, holding the Wolverines to 11 points while scoring another 20 for themselves. Only in the final period did Pagosa pull back, allowing players on the bench some floor time while still outscoring Bayfield 15-14, taking a 73-49 victory as IML champions.

“I’m not sure it was ever really in doubt after the first few minutes,” Shaffer said.

Indeed, with 55-percent from the field and a phenomenal 94-percent from the free-throw line, the Pirates gave a performance that eliminated all doubts as to who should wear the IML crown.

Rounding out an outstanding weekend, freshman Tyson Ross led the team with 20 points and seven rebounds. Also with seven rebounds, senior John Jewell was second in scoring for the Pirates, with 16 points. Junior Jordan Caler and senior Sackett Ross both scored nine points each, while junior Taylor Shaffer led the team with eight assists, tying Jewell and Tyson Ross with seven rebounds.

Tomorrow night, the Pirates host the first round of the state 3A basketball tournament in the PSHS gym, with Erie meeting Dolores Huerta at 5 p.m. and Pagosa Springs matched at 7 p.m. against Saint Mary’s High School, for the first round of the tournament.

When asked about his team’s prospects Friday, Shaffer said, “We just have to play hard and do the things we do well. They have a really good six-foot-three kid and a six-foot-ten kid, they’ve won thirteen games and a similar record as us. After Friday, we’ll look ahead to taking the first round of the championships.”

Despite a matching record, Saint Mary’s could prove to be a formidable foe. Having beaten a powerhouse 17-3 Peyton team — a team that defeated Salida twice this season, while Salida beat the Pirates both times they met this year — Saint Mary’s could promise to bring a tough game for Pagosa to answer.

Should the Pirates prevail against Saint Mary’s on Friday night, a match on Saturday at 1 p.m. against the winner of the Dolores Huerta/Erie game should prove to be equally as tough.

Dolores Huerta defeated Saint Mary’s in two of three games this year, while Erie pounded Saint Mary’s 70-38 last December.

With the winner of the tourney championship advancing to the Colorado 3A final eight next weekend, the road to Fort Collins will most likely not be smooth sailing for the Pirates. Despite the home court advantage (8-3 at home), Pagosa Springs will host teams that are well-matched in records and talent.

Ticket prices for the tournament this weekend, per CHSAA guidelines, are: adults $6, students K-12 and senior citizens (60 and older) $5.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Laydon
Pirate senior John Jewell makes a move behind the back of a Bayfield Wolverine defender during the championship game at the Intermountain League Tournament in Monte Vista last Saturday. Crushing the Wolverines 73-49, the Pirates took the IML crown and host the first round of the state playoffs Friday and Saturday.