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Pirates win IML tourney, host playoffs this weekend

It was sweet revenge last Saturday when the Pirates defeated the Alamosa Mean Moose 76-67 to win the 2012 Intermountain League tournament in Bayfield, following a resounding 62-34 victory over the Monte Vista Pirates on Thursday night.

Last March, the Mean Moose denied Pagosa the IML tournament crown when Alamosa defeated the Pirates 77-74, in overtime.

“It was nice to win not just the league but the tournament,” said Pirate head coach Randy Sorenson. “Alamosa was tough and we had to play intense basketball to the very end to beat them.”

However, on Thursday night Pagosa was in no danger of ceding IML dominance when they took the floor against a team that had only made the tournament after Monte Vista upset the Bayfield Wolverines 54-53 during last week’s IML pigtail round.

Going ahead of Monte Vista 15-7 by the end of the first quarter, Pagosa similarly dominated in the second, outscoring their namesakes 13-6 to go into the half with a commanding 28-13 lead.

Seeing the tenor of the game, Sorenson characteristically allowed his younger guys significant floor time in the third — a strategy that allowed Monte a chance to penetrate the zone but not to catch up, just matching Pagosa 13-13 in scoring for the period. Undaunted, Sorenson continue to cycle in younger players down the stretch and, with his bench leading 21-8 in scoring, Pagosa finished with a big 62-34 win.

Tyson Ross led the way with 18 points followed by Kain Lucero with 16 and Daniel Puskas with seven points. Lucero led with seven assists while Zachariah Griego led the team with six rebounds.

Looking as though the IML: tournament crown was in their hands at the start, the Pirates nonetheless had to bring a little combat to the floor as a tough Mean Moose team gave a little back and forth throughout Saturday night’s championship match.

“We got off to a great start, up 19-2. We allowed them to get back in the game but we were solid and played one of the best games of the year when we needed it,” Sorenson said.

Up 25-10 at the end of the first behind their characteristically explosive offense, the Pirates stumbled in the second, finding themselves outscored 11-7 but going into the half with some breathing room, 32-21.

The Pirates returned in the third a little more subdued than their fast start in the first but still overwhelmed Alamosa 20-13 in the period to go into the stretch with a comfortable 52-34 lead.

Unwilling to give up last year’s tournament crown without a fight, the Mean Moose hit hard on offense in the fourth. However, the Pirates were no less effective in the zone and although Alamosa held a 33-24 scoring advantage in the final quarter, it was not enough to overcome the beating they’d taken in the previous three quarters, allowing Pagosa to take the IML crown (which they’d won in 2009) with a 76-67 victory.

Pagosa’s scoring leaders were Ross with 23 points, followed by Puskas with 16 and Lucero with 15. Ross also led with seven rebounds and six steals while Lucero led with seven steals.

Tomorrow night, the Pirates host the first round of the state 3A basketball playoffs, with the 11th-ranked Kent Denver Sun Devils (10-11) going up against the 22nd-ranked Denver Science and Tech Stapleton Knights (14-9) at 6 p.m. followed at 8 p.m. by Pagosa matched against the 27th-ranked Olathe Pirates (15-7). Winners of Friday’s games will meet at 1 p.m. to determine who will move on to contend in Saturday’s Sweet 16 round.

“They’re a solid basketball team,” Sorenson said regarding tomorrow night’s opponents. “They have a lot of the same kids back. I think they deserve a much higher seeding that they got.”

Olathe and Pagosa have faced one common opponent — the Gunnison Cowboys. While Olathe won both their games against the Cowboys, 65-43 on Jan. 12 and 54-48 on Feb. 16 (at home), Pagosa destroyed Gunnison 50-18 on Dec. 2 at the Buena Vista tournament.

Somewhat predicting the results of tomorrow night’s other game, Sorenson said, “Kent Denver is really well coached. They’ll be a real test if we get by Olathe.”

If the Pirates prevail this weekend, they could walk through the first bracket of the “Great Eight” round on March 8, but only if the third-ranked Eaton Reds (17-5) lose either of this weekend’s games .

Pitted against 30th-ranked The Academy (Westminster, Colo.) Wildcats (12-11) tomorrow night, the Reds are favored to move on Saturday to face the winner of Friday’s match between the 14th-ranked Dolores Huerta Prep Scorpions (16-6) and the 19th-ranked Brush Beetdiggers (13-8). However, if the Reds prevail both days (and Pagosa wins both games this weekend), the Pirates will have a formidable struggle next Thursday against a talented Eaton team as the state tournament opens in Fort Collins.

Brackets and seeding can be found at www.chsaa.org/sports/basketball/pdf/2012_3A_Boys_State_%20Bracket.pdf.

“At this point they’re all good teams and we have a tough road ahead of us,” Sorenson said about getting past this weekend’s games. “We’ll be in Fort Collins if we win this weekend.”

Tickets this weekend are $6 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens. Only CHSAA passes and Colorado High School Coaches Association passes can be used — League passes and family passes will not be honored.

jim@pagosasun.com

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