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Pirate girls to start basketball season at Buena Vista tourney

With a combined record of 47-5 over the last two seasons, the Pagosa Springs High School girls’ basketball team will begin regular season action this weekend at the Buena Vista tournament looking to continue that stride.

The Pirates placed fourth in 3A state action last year and third place the prior season.

Continuing that level of performance, however, could be a challenge, thanks to the loss of five graduating seniors from last year’s squad and the move of an additional varsity player.

Looking to lead this year’s team is the sole senior, Brooklyn DuCharme, who will also serve as the team’s captain, an honor Coach Wes Lewis said DuCharme deserves.

“She was a huge contributor,” Lewis said of Ducharme’s performance last year, adding, “This is her deal this year.”

On the squad alongside DuCharme are three juniors, four sophomores and one freshman.

Those juniors looking to make a difference on the team are Ellie McGinn, Haleigh Zenz and Sienna Espinosa.

Sophomores on the team are Anissa Lucero, Taylor Strohecker, Emily Bryant and Bailee Gallegos.

The sole freshman on the 2011-12 squad is Payton Shahan.

While the majority of the team may be young, Lewis said this year’s sophomores were a big part of the successful 17-2 JV team last year, as well as receiving playing time at the varsity level.

Lewis added that the 6-foot-1 Strohecker will add height to the team.

“We knew we had a good group coming and those girls are going to step right up,” Lewis said.

Lewis said the team this year will look to be strong defensively, playing aggressive defense on more of the court in order to create opportunity.

“We kind of hang our hat on defense,” Lewis said, adding, “We want to continue to be a defensive team.”

In addition to a defense that will look to create breakaways and force turnovers, the Pirates should have several members contribute points to the scoreboard, versus last year’s reliance on the offensive powerhouse that was Mary Brinton and Breezy Bryant.

“That’s going to make us tougher to defend,” Lewis said, “and, obviously, less predictable.”

Preseason scrimmages against Durango and Del Norte in the last week afforded the team the chance to know what to work on before this season’s regular season competition, with rebounding being the biggest issue.

“That’s something we need to focus on and get better at,” Lewis said, adding that rebounding would be crucial against the tall squad Gunnison is likely to play against the Pirates Friday.

Additionally, Lewis said the young team will look to improve as a team to face varsity-level competition and will aim at bettering the “little things,” such as timing and the execution of a half-court offense.

“I’m very excited and optimistic,” Lewis said, adding that the team has a lot of room to improve.

While they may have room to improve, the Pirates look to start the season in the win column this weekend at the Buena Vista tournament.

Pirate action begins Friday at 4 p.m. against Gunnison.

The winner of that game will play the winner of the Buena Vista/Woodland Park (4A) game on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

Should the Pirates fall prey to Gunnison, they would play the loser of the Buena Vista/Woodland Park game Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

“I’m really proud of all the girls we have practicing with the varsity and JV,” Lewis said, adding, “We’re excited and ready to get started.”

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