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Pirates best Dolores, Gunnison for tourney crown

After two opening back-to-back tournaments, the Pirates are off to a 4-0 start having beat the Dolores Bears 58-29 last Friday at the opening night of the annual Wolf Creek Classic, then taking the tournament crown on Saturday night with a 46-42 victory over the Gunnison Cowboys.

Meeting a team they had defeated 102-26 last year on the tournament’s opening night, the Pagosa boys seemed no less confident that they were in for an easy win. And indeed, while not scoring triple digits this year, the Pirates were never in any trouble of giving up the game to Dolores

“I thought we played well,” said Coach Randy Sorenson regarding the match-up against Dolores. “We jumped out to an early lead and I put a bunch of younger kids out there. It’s just kind of hard to find a rhythm when you’re playing a bunch of different kids out there.”

Playing a greedy defense — the Pirates held the Bears below double digits in all quarters while forcing numerous Dolores turnovers — Pagosa was no less effective on offense, outscoring the Bears in all four periods.

Coming out like gangbusters from the beginning, the Pirates led the first quarter 21-7 and, not letting up a degree, overtook the Bears 15-8 in the second, leaving the half with a 36-15 lead.

While the third quarter was a bit of a yawn, the Pirates only scoring nine to the Bear’s six points, Pagosa still held a huge 45-21 lead going into the final quarter of the game.

With a clear advantage in the final period, Sorenson had the luxury of circulating players from the bench for some floor time. Yet, even with second-stringers filling in the gaps, the Pirates still dominated, outscoring Dolores 13-8 in the fourth and winning the game with the 59-29 blowout.

Hitting four three-pointers in the game (75 percent of his total points), Kain Lucero led the team with 16 points, three steals and five assists. Daniel Puskas was second in scoring with 11 points while Zerek Jones finished third with eight points, leading the team with 5 rebounds.

“I think our defense was a little better,” said Sorenson. “We struggled a little on offense in the third, but I can’t complain about that.”

Dolores went on to lose 61-38 to the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers in Saturday’s consolation round.

Returning to the court Saturday night to face the Gunnison Cowboys (who defeated the Panthers 55-36 in Friday’s opening round), the Pirates faced a tougher team than the one they’d beat 66-40 the previous week in Buena Vista.

In fact, had it not been for a tough defensive performance, the Pirates could have dropped their first game of the season.

Trading baskets with the Cowboys throughout most of the game, it was a hard-won battle. With problems connecting, the Pirates were saved by some stellar defensive play that held the Cowboys to nine points in the first quarter while Pagosa left the quarter with 14 points of their own.

Gunnison regained the initiative in the second quarter, pulling ahead of Pagosa twice during the period. Despite some strong defensive moves on the Pirates’ part, the Cowboys’ main weapon, Steven Starkebaum, was practically unstoppable inside the paint (scoring 16 points from the floor, 18 total for the game). However, the second quarter was the only time during the game when the Cowboys had a lead and that was relinquished minutes before halftime when Jones hit a two-pointer off the board late in the period. Seven unanswered points sent the Pirates into the second half with a 27-23 lead despite being outscored 14-13 by the cowboys in the second.

Sorenson said, “We just didn’t play as well as I hoped we would. It was as if we couldn’t stand a little prosperity.”

Similar to the previous night, the third quarter was unspectacular. Scoring half the quarter’s points in the opening minutes of the second half, the Pirates held the Cowboys scoreless for almost five minutes. With the Pirates outscoring the Cowboys 8-6 in the third, neither team delivered a performance to bring the crowd to its feet.

Scoring half his game points in the final quarter, Gunnison’s Starkebaum was the Cowboys’ last, best hope to recapture the game. However, his nine of 11 total points for Gunnison in the final period was not enough to match the 13 points scored by Pagosa and the Pirates finished the game with a tight 46-42 victory to take the tournament championship.

“We just didn’t box him in as well as we could,” Sorenson said regarding Starkebaum’s fourth quarter performance.

Tyson Ross led the team with 12 points, five steals and tied Kain Lucero with four assists. Jones finished second with 10 points and led the team with nine rebounds, with Clay Ross finishing third in scoring with nine points.

Both Ross and Zach Lucero were named all-tournament players.

The Pirates travel to Sargent tomorrow night to meet the 2A Farmers (2-0) — a team that lambasted the 3A Monte Vista Pirates 56-36 last Thursday on Monte’s home court.

“They’re pretty athletic,” Sorenson said regarding the Farmers. “We’re going to have to play well there to have a win in Sargent.”

On Saturday, the Pirates return home to host the 1-1 Salida Spartans for the final game before the long Christmas break (the next game is Jan. 6 in Durango against the 4A Demons).

Pointing to the Spartans’ defense, Sorenson said, “We’re going to finally see some man defense, which is good, since all we’ve seen is zone defense this season. As long as we run our offense and handle the pressure, we should be fine against Salida.”

The Pirates take the court at 7 p.m. on Saturday night against Salida, with the girls’ game starting at 5:30 p.m.