On Sunday, it appeared the Broncos took a page from the Pirates’ game last Thursday against the 4A Durango Demons, squandering a lead going into the fourth quarter.
Except, the Broncos went into OT. And they won.
The Pirates, on the other hand, allowed 18 Demon points during the final period, negating the 42-34 advantage they had going into the quarter, to drop their first game of the season with a 62-56 loss. Fortunately, the Pirates redeemed themselves in Salida last Saturday with a 50-35 victory over the Spartans.
The loss to Durango dropped Pagosa to sixth in Colorado Preps rankings, with Manitou Springs and Holy Family moving into the fourth and fifth spots, respectively.
With Daniel Puskas out (due to a sprained ankle), the Pirates were down a key producer going into Thursday’s match. Nevertheless, Pagosa got out to an early 13-6 lead in the first behind numerous turnovers by the Demons and an aggressive Pirate defense (especially on steals), shutting down Durango’s offense in their statistically best quarter.
The Demons snatched that lead back in the second after picking up their intensity and adjusting to the Pirate defense. After tying the score with 1:14 left in the half, the Demons allowed the Pirates to get back on top when Clay Ross landed a field goal with less than a minute left. However, a last-second three-pointer by Demon standout Kaleb Cobb (who finished the game with 22 points, 18 in the first half) sent Durango into the half with a tight 25-26 lead.
“I thought our defense was horrendous, especially in the second and fourth quarters,” Pirate coach Randy Sorenson said regarding Thursday’s loss. “In the second quarter, we basically allowed Kaleb Cobb to take over the game.”
As they have all season, the Pirate’s dominated in the third quarter, snatching back the lead when Zachariah Griego put in a quick two off an offensive rebound. However, it was capitalizing on Demon fouls that gave Pagosa the edge: with just six points from the field, the Pirates were 73 percent from the charity line, hitting 11 out of 15. Outscoring Durango 17-8 in the third, the Pirates went into the last quarter with a 42-34 lead.
Unfortunately, it was inconsistency that did the Pirates in. Faltering worse than they did during the second quarter, the Pirates combined numerous mistakes, multiple turnovers and a disorganized defense to hand the Demons a road victory.
With the Pirates sending the Demons to the free-throw line nine times in the quarter, Durango converted, hitting 16 out of 20 (for an impressive 80 percent). Outscoring the Pirates 18-14 down the stretch, those foul shots made all the difference in the world as the Demons turned an eight point deficit at the start of the quarter into a six-point win at the end, leaving Pagosa with a 62-56 victory and a 6-6 record.
“We just lost our composure,” Sorenson said of the fourth quarter. “We sent them to the free-throw line 20 times and they scored 16.”
When asked if he felt Puskas was missed, Sorenson replied, “I think Daniel would have helped us out defensively.”
Tyson Ross led the Pirates with 21 points, hitting 11 out 13 from the free-throw line for 85 percent (the team went 75 percent for the night from the free-throw line). Griego finished second with 16 points and led the team with seven rebounds while Kain Lucero led with six assists.
Saturday’s rematch against the Spartans held little surprise or drama, as the Pirates went to Salida to challenge a team they had hammered 84-40 on Dec. 17 in Pagosa Springs.
“It was a 15-point game that I thought should have been a 25-point game,” Sorenson said. “But I never felt uncomfortable in that game.”
In fact, it looked as though the Spartans had fielded a new team last Saturday, keeping the score close in the first quarter as the Pirates held a slim 13-10 advantage in the period. Stepping up on defense, the Pagosa boys largely succeeded in keeping the Spartans out of the lane, holding Salida to just five points in the second while scoring another 11 of their own to go into the half with 24-15 lead.
The Pirates held tough on defense in the third, but struggled on offense, outscoring the Spartans 10-8 before going into the final quarter with a 34-23 lead
On the flipside, the Pirates produced 16 points in the fourth, but allowed 12 Spartan points. Still, it was good enough to send the Pirates home with a 50-35 victory and a 6-1 season record.
“We had a little lapse defensively in the first and fourth quarters,” Sorenson said.
Tyson Ross led the team in scoring with 13 points while Clay Ross led with six rebounds and finishing second in scoring with nine points. Griego finished with eight points and Lucero scored seven while leading the team with four assists.
An obvious team effort, Sorenson said, “We played all the kids, in both halves, which will help us out down the road. The more experience they get, the better off we are.”
The Pirates will need that experience as they begin league play tomorrow night at 5:30 p.m., travelling to Centauri to challenge the 8-2 Falcons.
“I think Centauri is much improved from last year,” Sorenson said. “Last year we went to Centauri and lost. It’s a tough place to play at so we’re going to have to play a really good game.”
The Pirates return home Saturday night, hosting their perennial rivals at 7 p.m., the Bayfield Wolverines. Although Bayfield’s 3-4 record suggests that the Wolverines are struggling this season, Sorenson expressed some caution.
“Derek Hillyer is six-nine and that’s always a tough match up,” Sorenson said, adding, “and their little guard Cody Rose is an excellent basketball player.”
Knowing the odds (in favor of the Pirates), Sorenson nonetheless spoke to the importance of his team’s performance this weekend at the start of league play.
“We’re going to have to play two good games and get off to a good start,” the coach said.