Barring catastrophe, injury (God forbid) or schism, the Pirates should have a clear and uncontested shot at a Saturday night performance in Moby Arena this March. Having crushed the 4A Farmington Scorpions 61-25 last Thursday night in Pagosa and handing Bayfield a 55-40 defeat on Saturday (following a Jan. 15 51-32 defeat of the Wolverines on their home court), only two teams stand between the Pirates and a top-seed playoff position. Both tough, with impressive records, Pagosa has nonetheless handed them two decisive defeats on home territory. The last two games of the season, both on the road, are the final test for a team that will certainly go to state, but nonetheless needs to express its dominance in 3A competition.
That dominance was on display last Thursday night when the Pirates took down a 4A New Mexico team without breaking a sweat. While the 3-15 Farmington team pressed hard in the first quarter (giving standout Scorpion Chenoa Simpson an opportunity to take a stolen ball for a breakaway layup), the Pirates still led 14-7 going into the second.
Still, the Pirates needed a quarter to exhibit their dominance.
That wasn’t a problem. Holding the Scorpions to no points from the floor (their final points coming at just :37 left in the half, from the foul line), the Pirates went into the break with a 27-9 lead.
Outscoring the Scorpions 19-8 in the third and 15-8 at the end, Pagosa took a decisive 61-25 victory at home.
“We played well against a team that’s rebuilding,” said coach Wes Lewis. “Defensively we did really well and never gave up a double-digit quarter.”
Mary Brinton led the team, scoring 32 points, taking 16 rebounds and blocking six shots. Breezy Bryant finished with 17 points and led the team with four assists.
Coming off a 57-47 upset over the Monte Vista Pirates the night before, a much improved Bayfield squad looked to hold some momentum as they took the floor in Pagosa Springs on Saturday night. Indeed, getting off to an early 5-1 lead in the first, the Wolverines appeared to be poised to present some problems for the Pirates. Conversely, coming off two non-league games, it was not Pagosa’s best performance of the season.
However, playing a selfish defense that held Bayfield scoreless from the floor (their only other points coming from the free-throw line at 1:08 left) and capitalizing on several turnovers, the Pirates went on to lead 11-7 in the first.
Despite some buffed passes and allowing Bayfield standout Candace Shaw to dominate on defensive rebounds, the Pirates drove hard on offense in the second quarter. Overcoming a harassing full-court press by the Wolverines, the Pirates led 18-10 in second quarter scoring, going into the half with a 29-17 lead.
While Bayfield’s man-to-man defense worked well enough in the interim (allowing the Wolverines to cut their deficit to within nine points with less than two minutes left in the third period), the strategy created some foul problems for some key players. Outscored 14-11 in the third quarter, the Wolverines saw lead-scorer Kayla McCormick (with 10 points) benched early in the fourth and Shaw (with four fouls) playing a much-too-conservative game. While Bayfield matched Pagosa’s scoring 12-12 in the final period, it was not enough to overcome their earlier deficit and the Pirates walked away with a hard scramble 55-40 victory.
“I think Bayfield is getting better … they’re better than their record says they are,” said Lewis. “If we end up playing Bayfield again, we’d better be prepared to play well.”
Pointing out a disappointing 47 percent from the free-throw line (going just 14 for 30), Lewis said, “That’s not nearly good enough. The other thing is, we didn’t shoot very good from the field.”
“We’ve got to get better,” he added. “We’ve got to make more shots from the paint.”
Brinton again led with 25 points and 11 rebounds, with Bryant finishing with 12 points and five assists. Brooklynn DuCharme, Magan Kraetsch and Destiny Soto all finished with five points each.
The Pirates go into the final two weeks of regular season games with a perfect 15-0 record (5-0 IML).
This weekend, the Pirates finish off one more IML challenge and make up a game cancelled due to snow.
Tomorrow night at 5:30 p.m., the Pirates host the 2-13 Alamosa Mean Moose. After suffering a 48-22 defeat on their home court on Jan. 21 by the Pirates, the Maroons bring little to Pagosa Springs that suggests revenge. The following night, again at 5:30 p.m., the 2-12 Salida Spartans come to Pagosa for a make up game (cancelled in mid-December) that the Spartans probably didn’t want to play in the first place: the Pirates rolled over the Spartans 65-8 on Jan. 8 in Salida, a game that found the Pirates holding the Spartans scoreless during an entire half of play.
On the road for their last two games (both IML matches), the Pirates face two more league opponents. Although Monte Vista lost huge — 51-27 — in Pagosa Springs two weeks ago and lost 57-47 to Bayfield last Friday, the MV Pirates have reason to play the game of their lives in their house.
Looking ahead to the final two IML challenges, Lewis said, “We’re going to work on some different things this week ... work on somethings we haven’t worked on in awhile.”
More than Monte, the Centauri Falcons have every reason to defend their home turf, especially after an embarrassing 41-25 loss in Pagosa Springs Jan. 14 (which knocked them out of state rankings). Playing in La Jara is never easy, especially after a long bus trip getting there; facing a team that thought it had IML bragging rights will make the challenge all the more a scrap in the sand of the San Luis Valley.