After taking three weeks off for the holiday break, the Pagosa Springs Pirates boys’ basketball team hit the road fired up and ready to play as they once again schooled the Del Norte Tigers. But, on Tuesday night, they received a healthy shot of reality when the Durango Demons handed them their first loss of the season.
“There were a few days during the break that we were not allowed to practice,” coach Randy Sorenson explained, “but other than that, we have been in the gym working hard and trying to improve. Most of the kids were around for the holidays, so we feel like we were able to accomplish some good things. We mainly worked on fundamentals, and worked on some game situations that we have not had time to work on.”
And all of that hard work paid off on Jan. 12 when the Pirates beat the Tigers with a final score of 59-38. It wasn’t as much of a run-away game as Dec. 8, when the Pirates had the home court advantage and trounced the Tigers 71-34, but it was still a good effort and a nice way for the boys to get their game faces back on.
“We started the game a little slow,” Sorenson admitted, “which was a little bit expected due to the fact that we had not played a game in three weeks. We had a couple of turnovers and mental errors in the beginning of the game, but it didn’t take the kids long to right the ship.”
The Pirates jumped to an early lead and by the end of the first quarter, the score was 20-5. By the end of the half, the Pirates had chalked up a total of 33 points while they had only allowed the Tigers to make nine.
“We came out a little flat in the beginning of the third quarter and allowed them some easy looks at the basket and they cut into the lead a little bit,” Sorenson confessed. However, “We were able to extend the lead again and that allowed us to play the younger kids some in the second half.”
The Pirates only scored 12 more points in the third quarter while they let the Tigers have 14, and in the final quarter the Pirates scored 14 while they gave the Tigers 15, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Pirates’ impressive lead during the first half, with the Pirates ending the game ahead by 21 points.
“Our defense was pretty good in the first half,” Sorenson explained, “and we were able to get some turnovers and turn them into easy transition buckets. We are at our best when we are able to play that way.”
Kain Lucero led the charge with 25 total points, including two 3-pointers and one free-throw. He also had four assists. On defense, he had two rebounds, three steals and one blocked shot.
Quinn Smith was the next highest scorer with 10 points and four rebounds, while Zachariah Griego added to the offense with seven points and three assists, and contributed to the defense with eight rebounds and two blocked shots. Garek Erskine had the best defensive stats with eight rebounds, five blocked shots and one steal, and he still managed to score four points on the other end of the court.
“Next Tuesday we play Durango,” Sorenson said after Saturday’s Del Norte game. “This will be a huge game for us against a bigger school. They beat us last year and they have a good team again this year. We will have to play really well to get a win in Durango.”
As it turned out, the coach’s fears were well founded. At the end of the night Tuesday, as the Pirates left Durango, they could no longer put a zero in the loss column on their stats sheet.
“Basically we got beat in every facet of the game,” Sorenson admitted. “All of our weaknesses came out. We have been worried about our defense and it showed why. We struggle getting out to shooters, and we have a really hard time keeping people in front of us.”
The Pirates gave up 52 points to the Demons while they only managed to make 44 of their own.
“Durango was able to beat us off of the dribble all night,” Sorenson explained. “We had to play lots of help defense and so they were able to hit open guys inside or to dish out to wide open shooters who drilled shots on us.
“We did not rebound the basketball very well,” Sorenson confessed, “and we turned the ball over. Also, offensively we allowed their defensive pressure to eat us up. We did not attack offensively. We played timid. The only way to beat pressure is to attack it, and we did not do that.”
As of press time, no team stats were available, however, when pressed, Sorenson explained that the handwritten stat sheets filled out during the game were unreadable and that he would need to review the video to be able to obtain those. He was able to say that Lucero had 23 total points, Griego had nine and the team had a total of 22 turnovers.
“The kids did fight back in the fourth quarter,” Sorenson said, “and if we had made a couple of shots at key times we would have had a chance; we just dug ourselves too deep of a hole. Give Durango a lot of credit; they played a good basketball game. They beat us in every aspect of the game including the coaching.
“We have a lot of games coming up and play some really good basketball teams,” Sorenson concluded. “Hopefully the kids will be ready to play, and we can pick back up where we left off before the break. We need to clean some things up if we are going to continue to be successful.”
The next chances for success come Saturday, at Centauri, and Tuesday, at Ignacio.