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Pirates take initiative, go 2-0 in IML play

Coming off their first loss of the season, the Pirates not only grabbed their initiative back, but looked like a team determined to travel to Fort Collins, taking their first two league games over the weekend with clear victories, overcoming the Centauri Falcons 54-36 and scoring a 53-41 win over their Bayfield Wolverines rivals on Saturday night.

Hosting the Centauri Falcons Friday night, the Pirates got off to an early lead that never diminished, leading the Falcons in scoring for the first three quarters, holding them to single digits during those periods of play.

“We came out early and pressured them early, took an early lead and kept up that level of intensity,” said coach Randy Sorenson.

Outscoring the Falcons 13-6 in the first period, the Pirates held on defense while dominating on offense with an 18-7 scoring advantage in the second, leaving the half with a 31-13 lead.

Maintaining that intensity, the Pirates again led the Falcons 14-6 in the third, even though Sorenson had begun cycling in younger players for some floor time.

“We got some of our young guys out there early and pretty much the entire fourth quarter,” Sorenson said.

Going into the fourth with a 45-19 lead, Centauri decided not to pull their bigs despite a 26-point deficit (an indication of a team in profound trouble). Beating up on Pagosa’s younger players and outscoring the Pirates 17-9 in the final period, the Falcons still came up far short, heading out of Pagosa with their first IML loss while handing the Pirates their first league victory.

Tyson Ross led the team in scoring with 22 points, followed by Zerek Jones with 16, both tied with team-leading eight rebounds. Kain Lucero logged five assists while his brother Zach led with seven steals.

Centauri went on to win 59-58 the next night in Monte Vista, going 1-1 in IML challenges.

Taking to the road on Saturday night, the Pirates found themselves matched against a bigger Wolverines squad in Bayfield, but managed to capitalize on two strong quarters to overcome their league rival’s size.

Down 7-6 at the end of the first quarter, the two teams appeared to be evenly matched at the start, especially on defense.

“We started out slow in the first,” Sorenson said, and we just couldn’t capitalize on offense.”

However that quickly turned around in the second with the Pirates outscoring Bayfield 21-6 in the quarter, leaving the half with 27-13 lead. Maintaining that intensity into the third, the Pirates eventually built a 24-point lead. Outscoring the Wolverines 18-11 in the third, Pagosa went into the final period with a 45-24 lead.

However, the Wolverines regained momentum in the fourth, eventually coming within eight points of the Pirates as they capitalized on numerous Pagosa mistakes.

“We turned the ball over too many times, we just didn’t play smart at the end of the game,” Sorenson said.

Nevertheless, the Pirates held on despite being outscored 17-8 in the final period and took their second IML victory of the season, heading home from Bayfield with a 53-41 victory.

Kain Lucero led the team in scoring with 14 points, as well as five assists. Tyson Ross followed with nine points and Clay Ross finished with eight points.

Reiterating his “team” approach to the game (as opposed to last year’s strategy of focusing on individual key players), Sorenson said, “We played as a team and both games were team victories. Different kids stepped up at different times during the weekend.

“If we keep playing the way we did this weekend, we’ll have a really good team.”

Sorenson added that Clay Ross had a good weekend for the team, as did Eli Stephens.

“I think Eli gave us some quality minutes in both games,” Sorenson said.

At 2-0, the Pirates are at the top of the IML standings, followed by 1-0 Alamosa. However, after last Tuesday’s 44-39 loss to 2A Ignacio, the Pirates dropped two places in the Colorado Preps poll to number six, allowing Colorado Springs Christian and Machebeuf to move up one position. The Pirates also fell from fourth to sixth in the Denver Post rankings.

The Pirates continue IML action this weekend, traveling to Alamosa tomorrow night to meet the 7-4 Mean Moose. Alamosa logged their first league victory against the Monte Vista Pirates last Friday taking down the hapless 2-7 Pirates 78-42 in Monte Vista. In fact, the Mean Moose may be the league team to beat this season.

Sorenson agreed, saying, “We may very well have to play our best game of the season to beat Alamosa in Alamosa.”

Returning to Pagosa Springs on Saturday night, the Pirates host their namesakes from Monte Vista in a match against a team that offers little challenge to Pagosa for IML dominance. Having lost 56-36 to 2A Sargent on Dec. 9 (a team the Pirates defeated 46-39 Dec. 17), Monte Vista brings little to Pagosa that should give the Pirates concern. Tipoff time for Saturday’s match is 7 p.m.

Reluctant to offer comment on a team that is obviously struggling, Sorenson only said, “If we play Pirate basketball on Saturday night, we should be OK.”

Moving out of league play, the Pirates travel to Sanford on Tuesday night to face the 6-4 2A Indians. Having lost 59-26 to Alamosa on Dec. 17 and 54-36 the next night to the Buena Vista Demons (a team the Pirates beat 62-54 on Dec. 4), the Indians nonetheless should not be considered an assured victory for the Pirates.

“I think they’ll be real tough to beat at home,” said Sorenson. “They’re always real competitive and play real hard.”

With two more IML challenges during the next week, the Pirates have a chance to show an early-season dominance in the conference — and justification for a March road trip to Fort Collins.

jim@pagosasun.com