Steamboat gears up for district play

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— Hours before Battle Mountain knocked off Delta at the annual pigtail game Tuesday, the Steamboat Sailors were preparing themselves to battle the winner in the district playoffs.

The Sailors concluded their practice at about 4 p.m., though the Huskies and Panthers had not yet tipped off.

Battle Mountain went on to win the game, which means the Huskies will now meet the Sailors in the first round of the district tourney at 8:15 p.m. Thursday at Mesa State College in Grand Junction.

The pigtail game is a contest between the two last-place finishers in the 4A Western Slope Conference. The loser is eliminated from the tournament.

Steamboat, which is 17-2 overall and 10-2 in the conference, won the league title Saturday after it beat Delta.

It is the school's 10th league championship in the past 12 seasons.

The district tourney runs Thursday through Saturday, with games taking place at Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.

Six teams from the Western Slope Conference will compete in the tourney, along with Montezuma-Cortez and Montrose, which are from the 4A Southwestern Conference.

Those teams placing in the top five at districts will go on to play at the regional tourney, which is March 2-3.

On Tuesday, the Sailors practiced for about two hours at the Steamboat Springs High School gymnasium.

They worked on a number of areas, including passing, shooting, setting screens, running the fast break and communicating better defensively.

When they scrimmaged, it was mainly in half-court situations.

During one fast-break, Danny Weber snatched a pass from one of his teammates and jammed the Wilson basketball through the rim.

At another point, Ryan Kiely hit 18 consecutive shots from the foul line.

Steamboat didn't make many mistakes, though at one point, the players that sported white jerseys botched a play that didn't go over well with their coach.

They got down on all fours and pounded out a quick set of finger-tip pushups at their coach's instruction.

The players that wore red jerseys watched on.

Alex Mackey, who who is a junior 6-foot-5-inch post player, said the Sailors need to play with a new purpose during the post season.

"When it comes down to this, you just got to stay focused," Mackey said. "Like our coach says, you just got to reach down deep."

The Sailors know what to expect when they take on the Huskies.

They defeated them twice this season, though the last time the score was closer than they would have liked.

The Huskies are led by Josh Henry, a 6-foot-6 inch, 205-pound center who has been a threat down low this season.

If Steamboat beats Battle Mountain, they will advance to the semifinals where they will play the winner of the Glenwood Springs-Montrose game.

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