Two games last weekend determined the Pirates’ primacy in the Intermountain League and, with a 50-35 win last Friday in Alamosa against the 11-4 Mean Moose and a 50-31 at home against the 11-4 Centauri Falcons last Saturday, Pagosa managed to capture this year’s league crown.
However, Tuesday’s match against the 2A’s fourth-ranked Ignacio Bobcats provided a peek at how the Pirates might fare against a team bound for a state championship berth. More than that, the game was a chance for the Pirates to reverse a losing streak with the Cats that goes back to 2007.
Tuesday night capped off an eight-game winning streak this season for the Pirates as they defeated Ignacio 63-54, wiping out five years of losses to the Bobcats.
Last week’s three games showed the Pirates preparing for a road trip to Fort Collins in March. Stepping into one of the toughest gyms to play in the IML last Friday night, the Pirates faced a team not only seeking revenge for a 44-35 loss in Pagosa Springs on Jan. 20, but hoping to claim the dominant spot in IML standings.
Alamosa’s hopes were dashed early on as a rock-solid Pirate defense held the Mean Moose out of the lane, allowing Pagosa’s offense to pass through Alamosa’s zone. Holding the Mean Moose to a pair of sixes in each quarter during the first half, the Pirates scored 11 in the first and 10 in the second to go into the break with a 21-12 lead.
Although the Mean Moose managed to play a little catchup in the third, outscoring the Pirates 10-9, they were hampered by turnovers and an inability to penetrate in the fourth. Outscored 20-13 down the stretch, the Mean Moose sent the Pirates home with a 50-35 victory and one more step towards taking the IML crown.
“I thought our defense was outstanding and it might have been the best offensive game we’ve played in two years,” said Pirate head coach Randy Sorenson. “As far as taking care of the ball and making the pass, we really delivered.”
Tyson Ross led the Pirates in scoring with 17 points, also topping stats with six rebounds and seven steals. Kain Lucero finished a close second with 16 points and tied Ross in assists, both logging four each.
It was the Pirates looking for revenge against Centauri on Saturday night, hoping to redeem their Jan. 13 league-opener 52-50 loss in La Jara — the last time the Pirates suffered a defeat.
For their part, the Falcons were unable to repeat their mid-January upset, facing a team that had largely improved on the inside attack and follow-through at the rim. Outscored 17-12 in the first, the Falcons never gained an edge in the game, finding themselves down in scoring for all four quarters. With the second quarter going over five minutes with neither team scoring, the Pirates managed to pull out some baskets in the final minutes, outscoring Centauri 8-5 in the second to go to the half with a 25-17 lead.
“It wasn’t really pretty at times,” Sorenson said, “but we got the job done.”
The second half was no kinder to the Falcons who, outscored 9-6 in the third and 16-8 in the fourth, must have realized that they had lucked out last month with their two-point win. Down 19 points at the buzzer, the Falcons took the long bus ride home to La Jara with a 50-31 loss and a third-place rank in the IML.
“It’s tough coming back from playing a big game like we had in Alamosa on Friday night,” Sorenson said.
Clay Ross led the Pirates with 15 points, followed by Lucero with 11 and Tyson Ross with nine. Lucero led with seven assists and four steals while Tyson Ross led the team with eight rebounds.
Traveling to Ignacio Tuesday night, the Pirates must have been considering a legacy of five years losing to the Bobcats, but also how to contain Bobcat power forward Shane Richmond — a player who has averaged over 25 points a game — almost 50 percent of Ignacio’s season total.
With the Pirates getting ahead 14-7 in the first quarter, it appeared that Pagosa had neutralized Richmond and would take home an easy win. However, the Bobcats exploded on offense in the second quarter, reversing a 13-point deficit early in the period to come back within three points by the end of the half. Outscoring the Pirates 21-17 in the second, the Bobcats showed they weren’t about to give up a game at home without a fight.
While it was touch-and-go throughout the second half, the Pirates never gave up their lead, despite some tremendous effort by Ignacio to snatch that advantage.
Although the Pirates won the third 14-12 to go into the fourth with a 45-40 lead, it wasn’t until the final seconds of the game that it was clear that Pagosa would hand Ignacio their first loss on their home court in four seasons. A nine-point advantage for the Pirates early in the fourth was whittled to three when Richmond hit back-to-back trips outside the arc. But while the Bobcats were never outside of striking distance to defend their streak against the Pirates, Pagosa managed to control the game down the stretch, grabbing a 63-54 victory at the buzzer.
“It was a game of runs,” said Sorenson regarding the numerous times his team would go ahead with a comfortable lead only to have the Bobcats narrow the gap in short order.
“I thought we rebounded really well in the game and, with the exception of the second quarter when we gave up 21 points, we did a pretty good job on defense.”
Tyson Ross led in scoring with 15 points (and led with four steals), followed by Clay Ross and Lucero with 12 points each. Lucero led with six assists while Zacharia Griego led with 11 rebounds.
Following last weekend’s matches, the Pirates are 6-1 in the IML with the Mean Moose in second with a 4-2 league record (both losses at the hands of the Pirates) and the Falcons in third place with a 4-3 conference record.
Tomorrow night, Pagosa hosts the 6-11 Monte Vista Pirates (0-6 in the IML) for the season’s last conference match. The Pirates scored a 52-26 victory in Monte Vista on Jan. 21, a game in which Sorenson flooded the floor with JV players throughout the majority of the second half.
With Monte having secured their only wins against low-ranked 2A and 1A teams (and a win against a low-ranked 4A team) and winless against any league opponents, there is no reason to believe that Pagosa will lose any ground in IML standings.
However, even if Monte overcomes tremendous odds and snags their first (and only) conference victory Friday night, Pagosa Springs would still win the IML for the 2011-2012 season.
Both Pirate teams face off tomorrow night in the Pagosa Springs High School gym, with action beginning at 7 p.m.