All eyes on Mullen

Mustangs team to beat at Girls Shoot-Out

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— Steamboat Springs High School will play host to some of the best girls basketball teams in the state when the Steamboat Shoot-Out begins today.

As two-time defending 4A state champions, Mullen will be the team to beat in the eight-team tournament this weekend. But the Mustangs will not be the only highly touted school as the tournament brings in Aspen and

St. Mary's High School, teams ranked among the top 15 3A schools in the state.

Rounding out the competition, Steamboat will be joined by 4A schools Conifer and Ralston Valley, and Roaring Fork, which is a 3A school. With Westminster pulling out of the tournament late, Sailors coach Bruce Alston said one team spot remains open in the tournament but should be filled when the tournament starts today.

Alston said the high caliber of teams coming into the tournament will help his team get ready for the league competition that follows after Christmas break.

"We're playing up the first part of (the) season," Alston said.

Steamboat will start off its competition tonight when it faces St. Mary's at 8:15 p.m. Returning all five of their starters, the Pirates will be coming into the tournament with a 4-1 record.

Their one loss was a 42-33 defeat at the hands of Denver Christian, the No. 2-ranked 3A school in the state. Pirates coach Mike Burkett said defense is a key component to this year's relatively small team as St. Mary's held Denver Christian's all-state forward Katie Van Essen to just two points.

"In a number of games, we're not going to score a tremendous amount of points," Burkett said. "But we are holding teams down to around 30."

Matching up against the Sailors today will be all-state point guard Kelsey Burkett and four returning all-conference honorees from last year's 15-6 team. Burkett has also been seeing strong production from Molly Fauver at small forward, Jaclyn Stratman at shooting guard and Monica Burge at power forward.

After falling 53-49 to Rangely last Saturday, Alston said his team is looking to improve at hanging onto the ball, getting rebounding out of the perimeter players and taking more time before shooting.

After playing the Pirates, the Sailors will get two more games in for the weekend.

One of those teams might be the second-ranked 4A team in the state Mullen which will be bringing 6-foot junior forward Kristi Davis, guard Beth Hannon and guard Ashley McCall.

"Whoever plays Mullen has their hands full," Alston said.

Mullen will be starting off the tournament at 4:45 p.m. today when it plays Roaring Fork.

Steamboat had a chance to scout Roaring Fork two weeks ago at the Roaring Fork Tournament in Carbondale. In the first round of play, Roaring Fork lost in

overtime to Glenwood Springs, which went on to beat Steamboat, 53-50, in the championship game.

Each team will get the chance to play one game per day in the three-day elimination-round tournament. Win or lose, Steamboat's next game will be Friday at 6:30 p.m. when it meets either Aspen or Conifer. The tournament's championship game will be played at 4:45 p.m. Saturday.

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