Showdown looms

Showdown looms

Pirates roll past Burros, 50-34

The Cotopaxi High School boys basketball team set the table for its District 6 showdown with undefeated Sangre de Cristo later this week with a 50-34 nonleague victory on Saturday night over South Park.

The host Pirates, 7-2 overall and 2-0 in league play, pulled away in the fourth quarter from the Burros behind 29 points from senior Chance Gulliford. Cotopaxi travels to Mosca on Friday night to take on 8-0 Sangre de Cristo.

“I thought the last couple of games he’s been more active than he has been the whole year,” Pirates coach Matt Schwindt said of the 6-foot-7 Gulliford. “I thought the team as a whole has worked really hard to create for each other, not just for Chance. That’s resulting in him getting better shots.

“I thought our defensive pressure was really good. That’s all it takes is to be aggressive on defense, which creates good shots and hopefully you’ll make enough to win.”

The game started much like the one the two teams played in early December, with South Park hanging around with their hustle and second-chance points. Cotopaxi senior Frank Ogden provided an early spark with a pair of 3-pointers and eight points.

“It’s always huge when we have offense coming from other places,” Schwindt said. “Frank is not usually a huge offensive provider. He’s more of our dish-out, assist guy, so when he’s hitting it’s nice.”

Gulliford got untracked in the second period, scoring the last five points of the period to put Cotopaxi ahead 22-13 at intermission.

The Pirates’ defense stepped up in the second quarter as well with midcourt pressure that resulted in several South Park turnovers.

“The kids called out a press play,” Schwindt said. “They have the freedom to do that. It’s a good switch-up. It’s not something we would do all the time, but it’s great to switch it up on teams and make them uncomfortable.”

South Park, 4-6, kept the game close heading into the fourth quarter, down 34-27. Gulliford, though, put the game on ice with the first six points of the quarter, including a nice touch jumper from the free-throw line.

Freshman Ty Coleman (4), senior Zackary Van Esselestine (4), juniors Jonah Bertolino (3) and Peter Belt (2) broke into the scoring column.

The Pirates, winners of three consecutive games, take on one of the top teams in the state in No. 6-ranked Sangre de Cristo.

“They are a good team, very balanced,” Schwindt said. “Cole Christensen is one of the best guards in the state [he’s averaging 25 points a game]. It’s going to be a good test for some of our best defenders to limit him the best we can. If we move the ball like we did tonight and play with defensive intensity, I like our odds to go in there and give a show. Win or lose, I want our guys to show that we belong at that level.”