Wednesday, January 10, 2001
Steamboat Springs Last year, the Steamboat Sailors were defeated during the district playoffs by the Rifle Bears at home. On Friday, they have an opportunity to avenge that loss when the Bears come back to town for a crucial league game that tips off at 7:30 p.m.
But they will have to do so without leading scorer Andrew Johnston, who sprained his left ankle during a game at Battle Mountain Saturday. Johnston suffered a bad sprain along with some ligament damage.
Not having Johnston will make it a bit more difficult, though the Sailors are confident they can hand the Bears their first loss of the season, guard Ryan Kiely said. The Bears are 8-0 and 1-0.
Defeating Rifle, Kiely said, would be sweet revenge after last year's district defeat. But the Sailors are more concerned about what is at stake currently.
"It's more so that we just want to knock them off because they're undefeated and we're undefeated," Kiely said. "But it's still in the back of our minds that they knocked us off in districts on our home court."
The Sailors have gotten off to an impressive start, winning two tournament championships and defeating 5A opponent Grand Junction Central.
Steamboat scored a victory at Battle Mountain in its last game. Rifle defeated Pagosa Springs 77-62 Dec. 16.
Rifle, which has all of last year's starters back, is talented at every position, Steamboat coach Kelly Meek said. Tommy George, Charlie Terrell and Andy Gardineer made honorable-mention all-conference last season. Gardineer scored eight points against Steamboat at the district tournament.
"They're very quick and explosive," Meek said. "They're not extremely tall, but they're all good-sized athletic kids."
The key to stopping the Bears may be jumping out on top of them early, because when they have a lead in the final period, they like to stall to run time off the clock.
"We have to be patient and score early in the game so they can't stall us," Kiely said. "On defense, we just need to stay patient as well as maintain our fundamentals. And stop (Brian) Beecraft by not letting him get to the foul line."