The Pirates got off to a bang-up start for the season at the Buena Vista tournament, defeating the Gunnison Cowboys 50-18 on Friday night, then returning to take the tournament crown on Saturday night with a 59-30 win over the Buena Vista Demons.
In fact, this year’s start appeared more auspicious than last year’s, when the Pirates won their first game, defeating the Cowboys 66-40 then going on to defeat the Demons 62-54.
That’s 94 points allowed during last year’s tournament versus just 48 points scored against them last weekend, a defensive performance that led Colorado Preps to write on Sunday, “ ... even though they don’t have much size, they’ll give every opponent fits with their scrappy and energetic full court pressure.”
Holding the Cowboys to single digits in all four quarters during Friday’s game, the Pirates exhibited the kind of defensive scrappiness that brought the team to Colorado Preps’ attention. However, with three strong quarters on offense, the Pirates showed that they could make shots, as well as prevent buckets by their opponent.
“Our first game was pretty sloppy,” said head coach Randy Sorenson. “The guys were playing with some first-game jitters.”
However, the first quarter showed the Pirates playing with poise — especially on defense. Scoring 12 points out of the gate, the Pirates held the Cowboys to a single bucket in the first.
It was during the second quarter when the Pirates found themselves floundering on offense.
“We hit a lull there and couldn’t find a way to make a score for about seven or eight minutes,” Sorenson said. Still, outscoring the Cowboys 7-6 in the second, the Pirates left the half with a 19-8 lead.
Pagosa dominated on offense and especially defense during the second half. Holding the Cowboys to just four points in the third, the Pirates scored another 16 in the quarter, going into the final period ahead 35-12. Stingy on defense to the end, the Pirates allowed just six points in the fourth, while taking another 15 points, finishing Friday night’s season opener with a 50-18 victory.
Tyson Ross led in scoring with 15 points, with 11 points from the floor and a single three-pointer. Daniel Puskas, Kain Lucero (who led the team with eight assists) and Zachariah Griego (with a team-leading seven rebounds) all finished second in scoring with six points each. Clay Ross led the team with five steals.
Unfortunately, the Pirates were just under 48 percent from the free-throw line on Friday night, no doubt convincing Sorenson that some work needs to be done on that front.
The Pirates returned Saturday night to face the Demons (who defeated the Woodland Park Panthers 56-38 the night before) and, as with last year, found themselves facing a team that held a clear edge due to the size of several Demon standouts.
But also like last year, the Pirates proved that size does not matter as much as speed, precision plays and defensive prowess.
Sorenson said, “Buena Vista’s big, with a few guys hitting six-five and six-four. Our guys did a good job containing them. Our pressure kind of ate them up.”
Outscoring the Demons in all four quarters, the Pirates performed much better on offense, apparently shaking the jitters that plagued the previous night’s second quarter.
After leading the Demons 14-6 in the first quarter, the Pirates led again in the second by 13-11 — the only period where the Demons managed to break double digits — and left the half with a 27-17 lead.
Allowing only five Buena Vista points in the third while scoring 15 of their own, the Pirates went into the fourth leading 42-22, allowing Sorenson to give some of his younger players some floor time. Again, showing a formidable defense, the Pirates allowed just eight points in the fourth while scoring 16 of their own, taking the game with an impressive 59-30 win.
Lucero had the hot hand against the Demons, scoring 18 points (12 of those from outside the three-point line) and leading the team with six steals and nine assists. Tyson Ross had 16 points and Eli Stephens was third in scoring with 10 points. Griego led the team with nine rebounds.
Regarding Saturday’s win, Sorenson said, “It’s a tough place to play, so it was a pretty big win for us.”
Last weekend’s victories indicated that the Pirates may well be bound for another trip to Fort Collins (where Pagosa placed third in state 3A basketball). Indeed, Denver Post Preps had Pagosa Springs ranked number four in preseason state 3A rankings. Only the Faith Christian Eagles (Denver), the Colorado Springs Christian Lions and the Valley Vikings (Gilcrest) were ranked higher.
Both Colorado Preps and Denver Post Preps will begin season rankings next week.
Pagosa fans will be treated this weekend to the 24th Wolf Creek Classic tournament.
Tomorrow night at 8 p.m., the Pirates take on the 1-2 Dolores Bears. The winner of that match will take the floor at 7 p.m. on Saturday to face the winner of Friday’s 5 p.m. game between the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers (3-0) and the Gunnison Cowboys (1-1), while losing teams for Friday’s games will face off in Saturday’s 4 p.m. consolation match.