The Pagosa Springs Pirates had a busy week as they were bested by the Maroons in Alamosa last Friday night, came home to defeat the Monte Vista Pirates Saturday afternoon, then narrowly scraped by the Sanford Indians Tuesday.
While some might say the week started out as a disappointment, it ended with an exciting, and greatly appreciated, overtime victory.
“It was no surprise that Alamosa beat us on Friday night,” coach Randy Sorenson confessed. “We knew that they had some talent and that they would play hard. Alamosa is a tough place to play.”
By the end of the first quarter, the Pirates had given up a one-point lead, 10-9, but squeaked back to the front by halftime, 18-17. Things fell apart in the second half, though, when the Maroons outscored the Pirates 13-6 in the third quarter and 15-11 in the fourth, for a final score of 45-35.
“For the first time in the ten year history of Colorado Preps,” according to that website’s ranking page, “Brush holds down the top spot in the 3A basketball rankings. The Beetdiggers took advantage of losses by Kent Denver and Pagosa Springs to vault into the top slot.” Last week the Pirates were ranked second in the state by Colorado Preps.
“Pagosa Springs tumbled six spots to eighth,” the website continued. “Normally we would not drop a team that far with a road conference loss, but we had to place them behind Alamosa because of the most recent head-to-head loss. And since no other team behind Pagosa Springs suffered a loss, the drop was a bit larger than normal.”
The Pirates and the Maroons both have 12 wins overall, and the Maroons have three total losses while the Pirates only have two, but in league play the Maroons are 4-0 and the Pirates are 3-1.
“What was a surprise is how we played,” Sorenson lamented. “We basically played scared. They pressured the heck out of Kain (Lucero) and we basically fell apart. We have been saying all year that good teams will try and do their best to take Kain away and the other kids are going to have to step up.”
So far this season, Lucero has played all 14 games and has scored 282 points, or 20.1 points per game. The next closest pirate is Zachariah Griego with 120 points, or 8.6 points per game.
“We did not attack their pressure defense and it killed us,” Sorenson admitted. “We have said it before, but the only way to beat pressure is to attack pressure. It can’t be only one player attacking it, but all five of them.”
The Maroons allowed Lucero to hit only one three-pointer and one two-pointer, but they can’t take all the credit for shutting him down; he only hit a third of his free-throw attempts, or two out of six. He got credit for four assists, though. Griego led the offense with 11 points and two assists. Dean Hampton made six points and had three assists, while Quinn Smith scored five and made two assists.
“We shot the ball poorly and the free-throw situation killed us,” Sorenson explained. “Alamosa was 15 for 18 from the free-throw line while we were eight for 17.”
On the other end of the court, Hampton had six rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot. Smith had five rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot. Griego also had five rebounds, while Lucero had four steals and one blocked shot.
“Again, we did not take care of the basketball and turned it over way too much,” Sorenson said, summing up the Alamosa game, referring to the team’s total 16 turnovers. “It was just a poor performance by us, but give Alamosa a lot of credit; they had a great game plan, they were prepared for us, and they beat us in every aspect of the game.”
The coach was asked about the speech he used after Friday’s game to get the boys back into the right frame of mind for Saturday’s match against Monte Vista, but apparently what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. “I don’t think you would be allowed to put in the paper what was said after the game,” he joked.
However, the coach’s speech must have been motivational. Moving on to describe the Pirate versus Pirate game, the coach said, “We came out of the gates quickly against Monte Vista and played a pretty good first half.”
The 60-44 victory in front of a Pagosa crowd only happened because of a strong start: 22-7 by the end of the first half. Things slowed down in the second quarter, when Pagosa only scored 12 and allowed Monte to make 10.
“The second half was a different story,” Sorenson explained. “Monte Vista beat us in the second half 27-26.” The Pirates tied the Pirates, 14-14, in the third quarter, then Monte out performed Pagosa by one point in the last quarter, 13-12.
Lucero made a strong comeback with 22 points, including six three-pointers, and six assists. Griego made 13 points and had three assists, while Garek Erskine had 12 points. The rest of the points were made by Smith and Hampton.
“Again we turned the ball over and for some reason we refused to be patient and run offense,” Sorenson vented. At 18, Pagosa had even more turnovers against Monte than they did against Alamosa. Fortunately, however, the Pirates were unable to capitalize on Pagosa’s mistakes the way the Maroons did.
On defense, Erskine had nine rebounds and five blocked shots, Griego had 11 rebounds, and Smith had six rebounds and one blocked shot.
“Overall, it was not a very successful weekend,” Sorenson admitted. “We better fix things and we better fix them fast. It seems like we are a team on the decline instead of the rise. For some reason, it seems like we played our best basketball in December and that is a major concern. We still have time to turn things around, but we better do it quickly.”
Tuesday night against the Indians was a thriller for the hometown crowd, which almost blew the roof off of the Pagosa Springs High School gym, and by the end of the game even some normally mild-mannered teachers were screaming.
“Sanford is a very good basketball team,” Sorenson explained. “They are very disciplined, tough, and physical. They are patient offensively and they shoot the basketball pretty well.”
The Pirates took the lead in the first quarter, 10-7, and maintained the same lead going into halftime, 22-19. However, by the end of the third quarter the Indians had the lead, 30-27, and by the end of the fourth quarter the score was tied, 37-37.
Overtime was a nail-biter to the very end. With Lucero making two free-throws just before the end of the overtime period and placing the Pirates in the lead by four points, the Indians were able to get off a wild shot from mid-court just as the buzzer sounded. The three-point shot was good, and if Lucero hadn’t made both of his free-throws, the game would have gone into double overtime.
“They are young and we believe that they could have a good chance to win a state championship in 2A within the next few years,” Sorenson said, complimenting the Indians. “They had us on the ropes a couple of times, but our kids stayed together and found a way to win.”
Lucero and Hampton each had 12 points overall. Smith had seven, Erskine five, and Griego four. Other than the individual points, no other stats had been entered by Wednesday’s deadline.
“We were down six,” Sorenson explained, “with three minutes to go. Luckily, we were able to get a score at that time, so we could get our press set. We were able to get a couple of turnovers off of it and to convert offensively. With six seconds to go, they had a chance to win it with free throws, but they were unable to convert.”
Once the game went into overtime, the Pirates were able to score six more points, while the Indians only scraped together five points, for a final score of 43-42.
“We were able to get a lead early in the overtime and luckily hold on to it,” Sorenson said. “We turned the ball over a couple of times in our delay game, and that could have gotten us beat, but we were able to pull it out. The kids deserve to be complimented for the way they handled themselves and for never giving up.”
After so many away games during the first part of the season, the hometown fans certainly got their money’s worth Tuesday.
“Overall, we played much better than we had been playing,” Sorenson concluded, “and it was good to see us look more like the basketball team that we can be. It seems like we have been on a roller coaster and we need the ride to stop while we are at the top of it.
“We need to be more consistent and to continue to improve. We need to start playing our best basketball of the year, and we cannot afford to have any letdowns if we are going to finish the season strong.”
The Pirates return to league action Saturday night when they host the Centauri Falcons. Next week, they welcome the Bayfield Wolverines on Feb. 15 and the Alamosa Maroons on Feb 16. All three games will be at 7 p.m. The Pirates’ final game of the regular season will be in Monte Vista on Feb. 21. Post-season play follows that.