Despite a strong start on Thursday afternoon, with the Pirates defeating the fourth-ranked Machebeuf Buffaloes 64-57 in the first round of the state 3A championships, Pagosa was denied a chance at the finals when the top-ranked Faith Christian Eagles beat the Pirates 48-30 on Friday. However, Pagosa scored its second victory of the tournament on Saturday, edging out the third-ranked Valley Vikings 53-50 to take third-place at the Colorado Class 3A basketball tournament.
On Saturday night, Faith Christian took its fourth straight state championship, defeating the 15th-ranked Jefferson Academy Jaguars 49-41 for the title.
On Thursday, it looked as though the Buffaloes would deny the Pirates a chance for a semifinal slot, getting ahead early with a 17-15 lead at the end of the first quarter and building on their momentum by outscoring Pagosa 13-12 in the second, going into the half with a 30-27 advantage.
However, the Pirates turned the game around in the second half, outscoring Machebeuf 20-15 in the third to take the lead 47-45 going into the fourth. Outscoring the Buffaloes 17-12 in the final period, the Pirates secured their place in Friday’s semifinal match with a 64-57 victory.
“They were big, but we hung in there,” said Pirate coach Randy Sorenson. “They were a big team that we managed to beat again. That was a huge victory for the program, I think.”
Tyson Ross led scoring with 19 points, followed closely by Zerek Jones with 18 points and Zach Lucero with 13 points.
Facing the top-ranked Eagles on Friday, the Pirates looked as though they might win a slot in Saturday’s final despite getting behind 15-10 at the end of the first quarter. However, snatching the momentum from Faith Christian, the Pirates managed to take the lead in the second quarter. Outscoring the Eagles 8-6 in the quarter, Pagosa went into the half facing a narrow 21-18 deficit.
Unfortunately, the chance to win was cancelled out early in the third.
“The start of the third quarter really hurt us,” Sorenson said. “We gave up three layups in a row and got behind with six unanswered points and were just playing catch-up the rest of the game by that time.”
In fact, the Eagles clinched their spot in Saturday’s championship game by outscoring the Pirates 13-7 in the third and 14-5 in the fourth, leaving the Pirates with a 48-30 defeat.
Sorenson said, “We struggled with scoring during the second half and that really hurt us.”
Ross led the Pirates with 13 points, followed by Jones with six, while both Clay Ross and Daniel Puskas scored five points each.
On Saturday night, the Pirates knew they faced an uphill battle to finish with a third-ranked placement in the state tournament.
“It was another game where we managed to beat a big team,” Sorenson said. “They had kids that were six-seven and six-five and a team that many people thought, after the first day, could win the championship.”
Playing a back and forth game that was heavy on defense, Pagosa got out to an early 18-14 lead at the end of the first quarter, but then found themselves outscored 8-7 in the second, taking a 25-22 lead into the half.
That lead was lost in the third when the Vikings brought the score to a tie by outscoring the Pirates 14-11 in the quarter. However, Pagosa fought back in the fourth, outscoring Valley 17-14 in the final period and taking the state’s third-place slot with a 53-50 victory.
Sorenson said, “I was really proud of the kids. After losing on Friday, they found a way to come back and win against a good team.”
Looking ahead to next year, Sorenson said that the team’s lone graduating senior, Zach Lucero, would be sorely missed.
“He’s not just a good basketball player, but a great kid. He has been a great leader all year, the only senior on a basketball team from a high school of almost 500 kids. It tells you what kind of a kid he is.”
Looking to next year, Sorenson expressed confidence that Pirates will again return to Fort Collins to participate in the Great Eight tournament.
“We think the future’s really bright,” Sorenson said. “We have a lot of good kids and a lot of great talent. I think the state championship experience will really help us next year.”