Steamboat Springs Ryan Kiely sunk two clutch free throws in the final seconds against Grand Junction Central Friday as the Steamboat Sailors pulled off a huge win over the 5A powerhouse Warriors in their home-opener.
Steamboat, which prevailed 68-65, watched a seven-point lead dwindle near the end as Central closed the margin to 66-65 on a three-point shot made by Dustin Phillips.
But Kiely hit a pair of free throws with six seconds remaining to seal the win for the Sailors.
Phillips, who scored 23, rallied his Warriors back in the final minutes of regulation just moments after senior Andrew Johnston fouled out of the game.
Johnston, who had 20 points and six rebounds, fouled Phillips at the 1:47 mark and then watched from the bench as his opponents closed the gap to 61-57.
Phillips missed a three-pointer as time expired, however, as the Sailors improved their record to 3-0 on the year. It was a major victory for Steamboat considering Central recently posted big wins over Horizon and Bear Creek. The team also defeated the Palisade Bulldogs Thursday.
Ryan Scheer, who made a pair of free throws that put the Sailors up by seven with 1:03 remaining, said his team responded well to the adversity it faced near the end.
"It was really intense," Scheer said. "I mean, we were losing all our star players. We lost Andrew, you know, and then (Rusty) Eck.
"It was kind of hard because everybody was right on the edge of their foul situation, so we just had to play smart and keep our heads in the game."
Eck, who scored 11 points and had six rebounds, fouled out at the 2:36 mark of the fourth quarter.
Central jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, but Johnston completed a four-point play that tied the score. Johnston was fouled as he drained a three-pointer and then sunk the ensuing free throw to give his team its first points of the game.
Junior post player Alex Mackey played tremendously off the bench as he chipped in seven rebounds and nine points, including a three-pointer at the buzzer that gave the Sailors a 35-26 advantage at halftime.
Kiely finished the game with 10 points and Jeff Aragon scored eight. Danny Weber added six points and six rebounds.
For Central, Phillips had 23, followed by Andrew Roberts with 11 and Rick Johnson, who had eight.
Warriors head coach John Sidanycz said he was proud of the way his players responded to the nine-point deficit they faced as they entered the final half. Central outscored Steamboat 39-33 during the third and fourth quarters.
"Their second-half effort was what it should have been the first half," Sidanycz said. "That last three minutes we were able to extend the game."
Steamboat coach Kelly Meek, who leads his team to Rangely to play the Panthers today at 4:30 p.m., said his team's aggressiveness inside the paint was a major reason for its upset victory. The bench play was another key, he said.
"Alex (Mackey) is giving us great looks off the bench," Meek said. "He's done this consistently, and a lot of times he maybe brings a spark to us in terms of his reach. He is really getting aggressive."
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