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Pirate girls take three in a row

Facing two tough competitors over the past week and one walkaway game, the Pirates swept their three-game series with the kind of skill and aplomb that should carry them well into the post-season. Winning two tough home games, 50-41 against the Farmington Scorpions on Thursday, and 52-47 against the Monte Vista Pirates on Saturday, the Pagosa girls cut down the Bluejays in Mancos with a 66-26 win. Ranked No. 4 in Girl’s 3A (as of Feb. 4 in the Denver Post poll), the Pirates proved their standing in state rankings.

Last Thursday, the Pirates hosted a surprisingly tough Farmington team (coming into the game with a 2-13 record) fighting a back-and-forth battle in the second and third periods, but showing enough domination in the first and determination in the fourth to finish with a 50-41 victory.

Coming out strong, the Pirates held off a tepid Scorpion offense while overwhelming Farmington leaving the quarter with a 17-6 lead. However, the Scorpions adjusted in the first part of the second quarter, taking advantage of Pagosa turnovers and matching Pagosa bucket for bucket in a 9-9 period, leaving the half with the Pirates up 26-15.

Farmington came on strong again in the third quarter, outscoring the Pirates 10-13, but took their momentum with a price as three key Scorpion players got into foul trouble late in the period. With those players held on the bench until the final minutes of the fourth, Farmington was unable to capitalize on their earlier momentum, allowing the Pirates to get a 14-13 scoring edge in the period, losing 50-41 to the Pirates.

Mary Brinton led the team with 22 points and 12 rebounds, followed by Breezy Bryant with 19 points and four assists. Victoria Espinosa had four points, while Meagan Bryant finished with three points and led the team with seven steals.

Returning to the PSHS gym to host an extremely tough and senior-heavy Monte Vista team, the Pirates were aware they were facing a strong competitor. Although the Pirates had won 43-40 in Monte Vista on Jan. 16, Monte’s 11-3 record was misleading, falling to two teams in late January with five varsity players out on suspension. Back with a full squad, Monte Vista had something to prove.

With an intimidating full-court press and the Pirates having difficulty finishing at the bucket, Monte got off to an early 8-6 lead in the quarter. However, Breezy Bryant quickly answered, hitting eight points in a row (with two back-to-back three-pointers) and the Pirates finished the period outscoring Monte 14-10.

With Monte players looking winded coming into the second quarter, Pagosa regained the momentum, capitalizing on numerous Monte turnovers. With Monte’s star, Mandy Aguilar, doing most of the defensive heavy-lifting (she had seven steals and 17 points for the game), the Pirates were able to push their lead further, outscoring Monte 27-18 in the second and leaving the half with a 27-18 lead.

With his team looking rattled under the bucket in the first half, Monte Vista coach Scott Wiedeman brought his team onto the floor during the last five minutes of halftime — a time traditionally reserved for the boy’s varsity warm-up. The extra practice worked to a degree as Monte made adjustments and fought harder in the second half. Regaining their footing and playing an extremely aggressive defense, Monte was able to close the gap, outscoring Pagosa 18-15 in the third.

However, Monte’s physical game cost them as key players began to run into foul trouble (Liz Schaefer, who had 14 points for the game, fouled out at 3:19 in the fourth). Hanging tough and edging out Pagosa 11-10 for the period, Monte was unable to make good on their threat and Pagosa took a hard-earned 52-47 victory.

Leading the Pirates in scoring, Brinton had 23 points (16 from the floor and 9-for-11 at the free-throw line), 13 rebounds and five blocks, while Breezy Bryant scored 14 points and led the team with three steals. Victoria Espinosa finished with six points for the game.

Travelling to Mancos on Tuesday, the Pirates had no trouble against the hapless Bluejays. Dominating the Jays in every quarter, 14-12, 24-4, 15-6 and 13-4, the Pirates went from a tough start on offense and defense to turning the tables on an unprepared and outmatched Mancos team.

Brinton led the team with 22 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks. Both Breezy Bryant and Victoria Espinosa followed in scoring with 10 points each (and Bryant leading the team with six assists and five steals). Sophomore Brooklynn DuCharme scored eight points.

Going into this next week with a 14-1 overall record, the Pirates lead 4-0 in a very tough Intermountain League.

The Pirates go on the road Friday for a rematch against the 9-6 Centauri Falcons in La Jara for a conference rematch. Although the Pirates trounced the Falcons 56-36 Jan. 26 in Pagosa, Centauri plays a physical game and the Pirates should not expect a warm welcome in the San Luis valley.

Returning to Pagosa on Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m., the Pirates look for revenge against the 8-10 4A Cortez Panthers — the only team to beat the Pirates this season (61-63 in overtime during the Dec. 12 Wolf Creek Classic tournament). In a slump since Jan. 15, the Panthers have lost their last eight games against some tough competition.

jim@pagosasun.com