If there’s consolation in defeat, Mancos will surely take plenty of encouraging signs from their close battles against Pagosa Springs into the final two weeks of the regular season and beyond.
Both Kerri Morgan’s girls and Dusty Veach’s boys scrapped toe-to-toe with a pair of 4A top-five programs, each leading for stretches of their close calls, with the girls falling to the Pirates, 33-30, and the boys dropping their game, 50-43.
In one of their final non-league games of the season, the Bluejays got the taste of postseason-caliber opposition, with their gritty defense proving that they could stop even some of the most disciplined offenses on the Western Slope.
For the girls, rising to the occasion in the postseason has been front-and-center among the big goals for Morgan’s squad, and the Jays (10-5, 4-1 2A/1A SJBL) made sure to prioritize getting interior scoring. Senior Teya Yeomans received plenty of touches in the paint, and found herself either scoring or earning trips to the line.
Yeomans scored 10 points in the contest, while trying to make life difficult for the Pirate post players. As a result, Mancos found themselves right in the middle of a grinding game, trailing by three after the opening quarter.
Pagosa Springs (15-4, 7-1 4A/3A IML) shot the ball well in the second quarter, after they managed to cut through the Mancos pressure and stopped committing turnovers. The lead ballooned to 20-10 in favor of the visitors late in the second frame, before Mancos began to swing the game back to their style of basketball.
The Jays forced turnovers aplenty again in the third quarter, and chipped into the deficit, climbing back within three midway through the stanza. The Jays limited Pagosa to just two second half field goals, but unfortunately couldn’t break down a stifling Pirate defense either. A three pointer from sophomore Claire Goodwin closed the gap to 27-23 in the middle of the fourth quarter, but subsequent empty trips for the Jays forced them to foul to regain possession.
Trading free throws, Pagosa Springs eventually worked the clock down to the final horn, but not without the Jays learning that they could hold their own against anyone. Goodwin led the way with 13 points, while Pagosa Springs’ Elizabeth Currier matched that point total for the visitors.
In the boys game, a strikingly similar storyline played out – junior Kaiden Wyatt, in spite of giving up several inches in the paint, put together a yeoman-like effort to lead Mancos into a four quarter tussle with the Pirates. Mancos led for stretches of each of the four quarters in the back-and-forth affair, and found themselves trailing by only two points heading into the fourth quarter.
Senior Brian Veach, held to just five points on the night, nailed a big three to give the home team the lead in the fourth, only to see Pagosa respond with back-to-back triples of their own to reclaim the advantage. With two minutes remaining, Pirate senior Blake Laner, in what turned out to be a massive swing in the game, blocked Veach on a potential go-ahead three, then raced out behind the defense for a layup that built the Pirate advantage to four.
Mancos (10-4, 4-1 2A/1A SJBL) wouldn’t get any closer the rest of the way, as Pagosa made their free throws to stave off the Jays, ending a five-game winning streak for Mancos.
Senior Andrew Jaime joined Wyatt in double figures with 11 points, scoring in transition as Mancos built an 11-9 advantage after one quarter, and found themselves tied at 19 at the break. Wyatt’s dozen led Mancos, while senior Chris Medina scored seven in the losing effort.
Pagosa Springs was led by junior Colt Lewis with 13 points, but it was Laner (10 points) and senior Chase Harper (11 points) down the stretch that came up with pivotal buckets that kept the Pirates out in front. Already having assured themselves the Intermountain League title, Pagosa Springs (18-1, 8-0 4A/3A IML) carries a 17-game winning streak into IML games against Bayfield and M-CHS this weekend.
Mancos, meanwhile, will get set for road trips to Ouray (boys only on Feb. 8) and Ridgway (boys and girls on Feb. 10) before their Montezuma County rivalries wrap up the regular season – with a home date with M-CHS on Feb. 13 and a road trip to Dolores three days later. Their clashes with the Panthers and Bears will be available on local radio station 98.7 FM KRTZ and krtzradio.com.