What a difference a week makes.
After losing their first league challenge 52-50 on Jan. 13 against the Centauri Falcons, dropping from state 3A rankings in one poll and getting knocked from their top perch in Intermountain League rankings, the Pirates roared back to take three straight wins this past week, taking down the Alamosa Mean Moose 44-35 at home on Friday, securing a 53-26 road win in Monte Vista on Saturday, then returning home to defeat the Sanford Indians (fourth ranked in state 2A) 60-48 on Tuesday.
With the three wins during the past week (with two in conference), the Pirates improve to 10-2 for the season and 3-1 in the IML.
Last Friday night, the Pirates fought the Mean Moose for not just primacy in the IML, but also for a rightful return for a place in state 3A rankings.
At the start it looked as though it would be a hard-fought battle with both teams fielding an intense, physical defense. Although Pagosa Springs held a slight 7-6 edge at the end of the first, it was apparent to fans on both sides that they were in for a rough-and-tumble game.
In fact, several key Mean Moose players found themselves in foul trouble by late in the second behind an extremely aggressive defense. Outscoring the Pirates 14-13 in the second to send the teams into the half with a 20-20 tie, it must have seemed to the Mean Moose coaches that the slight edge gained in the period was a pyrrhic victory.
With those Mean Moose benched behind four fouls, the Pirates found some breathing room in the second half, outscoring Alamosa 15-10 in the third and 9-5 in the fourth, finishing with a 44-35 victory.
Pirate head coach Randy Sorenson said, “I thought it was our best defensive effort of the year. We beat a really good basketball team.”
Tyson Ross led the team with 17 points and six rebounds, while Kain Lucero finished with 13 points and led with four steals. Capitalizing on Alamosa’s pusillanimous defense (the Pirates went to the free-throw line 32 times), Pagosa hit a respectable 75 percent in the key.
In Monte Vista on Saturday night, Pagosa faced a 5-5 team that has found no love in the IML (0-3 in conference after Saturday). After losing out to the Pirates 15-1 in the first, Monte found themselves outscored 13-7 in the second, leaving the half down 20 points with a 28-8 score.
After finding themselves outscored 15-6 in the third, Monte barely succeeded against Pagosa’s JV players in the fourth, gaining just a 12-9 scoring advantage — too little, too late — and sending Pagosa home with a 52-26 victory.
“We got to play a lot of younger guys and got to work on some things we needed to work on,” Sorenson said. “Games like that can get sloppy and our kids didn’t play down to that level.”
Both Daniel Puskas and Lucero led in scoring with 12 points each, with Lucero hitting three from outside the line and leading with seven assists. Tyson Ross (third with seven points) was effective on defense with seven steals logged, while Clay Ross led the team with 10 rebounds.
Coming to Pagosa Springs with a 10-1 record and ample regard in state 2A basketball, the Sanford Indians looked as though they would provide the Pirates with a tougher challenge than Pagosa faced in Monte Vista on Saturday. Indeed, with Sanford players offered some advantage behind Pagosa shooting troubles and numerous bad Pirate passes, the 8-8 end of the first quarter suggested a tight game on Tuesday.
However, with Pagosa exploding in the second to outscore the Indians 22-12, then repeating with an 18-12 advantage in the third, the Indians were left with little to justify their fourth-place ranking. Despite being able to take advantage of younger Pagosa players in the fourth (16-12 in the period), Sanford never gave up, but never had a chance, giving the Pirates a 60-48 victory.
“Our defense was good, again,” said Sorenson. “We played well against a really good team.”
Tyson Ross led with 23 points and Lucero finished the night with 20 points.
The Pirates return to league action Saturday night, taking a short trip down the road to challenge the 5-6 Bayfield Wolverines.
Sorenson said, “It will be another tough test for us. Bayfield is always hard to play against on their home court.”
Although the Wolverines mounted a respectable defense against the Pirates on Jan. 14 in Pagosa Springs, losing just 60-50, Bayfield has been struggling in the IML (1-2) and had the advantage of facing a Pirate team that was regrouping on the heels of losses to the Falcons and the Durango Demons.
On Saturday, the Wolverines will be facing a much improved team, one that has gained some badly needed confidence and reestablished the fundamentals that had them highly ranked at the start of the season: a selfish defense, an explosive offense and an enviable depth on the bench that has Pagosa playing as a well-rounded team.