‘A huge win’

‘A huge win’

Pirates rally in dramatic fashion

Down 10 points entering the fourth quarter, the Cotopaxi boys basketball team made some key plays down the stretch to edge host Sierra Grande 51-50 on Friday night in a pivotal District 6 contest.

The victory improves the Pirates’ record to 10-5 overall and 5-2 in District 6 play. They travel to Westcliffe on Thursday night for a nonleague game against rival Custer County.

“That was a huge win,” Pirates coach Matt Schwindt said. “If we’d lost, we could have dropped to sixth or seventh instead of being in the top three, and we would have had to travel for the playoffs. We have two more big ones [league games] left. We need to make sure we win so we can host in the first round, and then hopefully go to Del Norte [for the District 6 finals].”

Against the Panthers, the Pirates battled to a 20-20 tie at intermission. Cotopaxi couldn’t get anything going in the third quarter, falling behind 33-23.

 “We struggled when they decided to put pressure on us,” Schwindt said. “We rushed some shots and we weren’t creating like we did in the fourth quarter. They kind of backed off us in the fourth quarter, which gave us some space.”

Cotopaxi cut the Sierra Grande lead to just a point midway through the fourth quarter and actually took a one-point advantage at the 3:35 mark.

Down the stretch, Sierra Grande went up 50-47 with under one minute left when the Pirates’ Chance Gulliford was called for an intentional foul. Cotopaxi played good defense on the Panthers’ inbound pass and got the steal. Moments later, Peter Belt went hard to the basket and was fouled. The officials called it an intentional foul and Belt converted both free throws with 18.6 seconds left. On the Pirates’ ensuing possession, Cotopaxi got the ball inside to Gulliford, who turned and lofted a soft 12-footer that bounced around on the rim before falling in. The shot, with just a two seconds left, gave Cotopaxi a 51-50 lead.

“During the fourth quarter, we had all the momentum,” Schwindt said. “And then we got lazy on defense a few times and let someone who wasn’t a scoring threat all game score four or five baskets and keep them in it with us. We were actually poised to start pulling away when we took the lead. …

“Having Peter knock down both free throws late was important because we hadn’t done that all season. Then we were able to get the ball into our big guy in the middle and let him do his thing.”

Cotopaxi received a shot in the arm from freshman Ty Coleman, who scored a season-high 19 points on five-of-eight shooting from the three-point line. Gulliford had 19, with Jonah Bertolino and Belt combining for 11.

The Pirates made six of 19 from the three-point line and nine of 15 from the free-throw line. Gulliford led the team with eight rebounds, with Zackary Van Esselestine pulling down six rebounds.

Cotopaxi takes on Custer County in Westcliffe on Thursday. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m. On Friday, the Pirates host Antonito at 4:30 p.m.

Cotopaxi girls win in convincing fashion
The Cotopaxi High School girls basketball team defeated Sierra Grand 65-41 and Lake City 62-7 over the weekend.

The Pirates hadn’t beaten Sierra Grande in Cotopaxi coach Troy Thornton’s tenure at the school. With Cotopaxi up 20-14 at the end of the first quarter, the Pirates pulled away in the second period and led 40-19 at intermission.

“Sierra Grande is always a scary team,” Thornton said. “They are well coached and get better as the season progresses. The first five minutes was a track meet. Both teams combined to score 34 points in the first quarter. Our defense took over in the second quarter and we outscored them 20-5, mostly on steals. It’s probably the best we’ve played offensively as a team all season.”

Koylynn Gulliford led all scorers with 15 points. Claire Carlson and Shealee Coleman each had 12 points. Jamie Sanchez added 11, while Sage Laymon chipped in 10. 

Against winless Lake City, Cotopaxi ran away from the start and led 45-3 at intermission.

“Lake City was just a tough game,” Thornton said. “It was good because the younger girls got lots of playing time, but those kinds of games don’t help otherwise, especially at this point in the season.”

Gulliford led all scorers with 21 points.

The Pirates, 13-3 overall and 7-1 in District 6 play, travel to Westcliffe on Thursday for a nonleague game against Custer County. Tip-off is 6 p.m. On Friday, Cotopaxi hosts Antonito at 3 p.m.