BANDON — When Pacific won the Class 1A state title last winter, the Pirates were led by four dynamic seniors.
But the Pirates return a number of players this year from that squad who either saw key minutes or got to practice against those players all the time.
So far, the results have been pretty good: Three wins over teams from the Class 2A Sunset Conference, most recently Tuesday’s 64-53 win at Bandon.
“I think we can still be a special team,” said Colton Morrill-Keeler, one of three seniors in this year’s starting lineup.
His assessment of Tuesday’s game?
“It was ugly, but we still got the win,” Morrill-Keeler said. “We made mistakes. We have young guys.”
Fortunately for the Pirates, they still have Morrill-Keeler, who is taking the inside load after the graduation of his older brother John and Jack Lehnherr.
The Tigers had no answer for the physical Pacific post most of the game as Morrill-Keeler scored 35 points and grabbed 21 rebounds.
But Bandon stayed tough and even used a 12-point run in the third quarter to take the lead at 36-35 on a 3-pointer by Colby Gaston.
Morrill-Keeler took over after that. He had a three-point play and two other baskets inside to help Pacific get its lead back up to seven points by the end of the quarter and then added 10 more points in the fourth quarter.
The other two senior starters, Davyn Brown and Steve White, added 11 and nine points, respectively. Both hit 3-pointers in the first half, while the Pirates opened a nine-point halftime edge.
“Our inside-out game can be lethal,” Morrill-Keeler said. “Especially with Steve. He can be lights-out.”
White was the fifth starter last year and Morrill-Keeler the first player off the bench and coach Ben Stallard said they will be the keys for the team’s success.
“We are going to live and die with those two seniors,” Stallard said.
Pacific’s other two starters are sophomores Kross Miller and Sean White and other young players fill out the lineup’s depth.
“They played against some of the best players in the state,” Morrill-Keeler said of the team’s practices last year. “They can be ready. We have to keep working every day.”
While Pacific improved to 3-0, Bandon fell to 0-4, but the Tigers had a lot to be happy with, coach Matt Angove said.
Bandon made several runs after the Pirates built leads in the game, and during one of them, three of the five players on the floor were freshmen — Cooper Lang and Angove’s twin freshmen sons, Hunter and Trevor.
Matt Yarbor led the Tigers with 16 points and Hunter Angove added 14. Gaston, like Yarbor a senior starter, had eight, all during the second half.
Bandon had several pivotal 3-pointers for momentum, with Yarbor, Gaston, both Angoves and Will Freitag all hitting from deep. But ultimately, like in a loss to Glide last week, they couldn’t keep up inside late.
“We need to get stronger,” Matt Angove said. “And we need to still be more aggressive inside.”
Bandon is on the road Friday against Douglas while Pacific is off until hosting Reedsport next Wednesday.