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Pirates finish IML schedule at top of standings

A commanding 57-33 victory over Monte Vista last Friday allowed Pagosa Springs to clinch another Intermountain League title with a 7-1 conference record and moved the Pirates up to the fifth-place spot in the Colorado Preps state 3A rankings.

Although Friday’s game cemented the Pirate’s IML bragging rights, the conference crown was won last week after the Pirates defeated the Mean Moose 50-35 in Alamosa.

If Friday’s outcome hadn’t been determined before the game — Monte went into the game with a 0-6 IML record — it was clear within the first minutes of the game that Pagosa held the upper hand. Taking advantage of Monte’s problems with ball control to convert several steals into points, while dominating on both offensive and defensive rebounds, Pagosa got out to an 18-7 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Apparently recognizing his team’s clear advantage on both offense and defense, Pirates head coach Randy Sorenson began cycling in younger players before the end of the first quarter.

“We were able to start some young kids early and play them throughout the entire game,” Sorenson said.

Blessed with a deep bench and younger players that had secured floor time earlier in the season, Sorenson was in no danger of giving up the game with nonstarters making plays. Although stymied slightly on offense, Sorenson’s younger players delivered on defense to hold Monte to just three points in the second quarter while scoring 10, going into the half with a 28-10 lead.

With the Pirates outscoring Monte 18-14 in the third and 12-9 in the fourth, Pagosa finished out this season’s conference schedule with the 57-33 win.

Daniel Puskas and Kain Lucero led in scoring with 11 points each, Tyson Ross finishing with nine. Lucero also led with six assists and Zachariah Griego led with nine rebounds.

Tonight, the Mean Moose and Centauri Falcons grapple for second place in the IML. Currently, both are tied with a 4-3 conference record. The Falcons lost 65-46 in Alamosa on Jan. 27 for their first meeting.

The Pirates finish their season this Saturday in Sanford against the third-ranked 2A Indians (sixth in Denver Post Preps poll). On Jan. 24, the Indians lost 60-48 to the Pirates in Pagosa Springs. Although Sanford has scored wins against Centauri and Buena Vista, those games were close compared to the scores Pagosa racked up in similar matchups. Furthermore, the Indians lost 58-51 against Alamosa — a team that the Pirates have defeated twice, at home and away, both times by relatively large margins.

Nonetheless, there is a reason why coaches across the state have ranked the Indians so highly. Although Sanford has a reputation as being a tough place to play, the Pirates trounced them there 70-26 last year.

“They’ve got a good basketball team, they’re disciplined and well coached,” Sorenson said. “We’ll have to focus and play some good basketball.”

Although a win Saturday night in Sanford will not likely improve the Pirates’ rankings in the final week of the regular season, a loss will probably knock Pagosa down a few notches in the rankings — and could potentially jeopardize a top-seed (and accompanying home-court advantage) in the postseason.

jim@pagosasun.com

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