Sailors look to rope up Rangers

State Quarterfinal action heads to Pepsi Center in Denver

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It may have only been a summer-league game, but the Steamboat Sailors have an opportunity to avenge a loss to Lewis-Palmer Thursday night when they take on the Rangers in the state quarterfinals in Denver.

The game, which tips off at 6:50 p.m. at the Pepsi Center, is a rematch from a contest that dates back to a preseason tournament at the University of Wyoming.

The Rangers beat the Sailors by 10 points, according to coach Kelly Meek.

"They're very quick," Meek said. "They're quicker than we are and they're just very athletic."

The Sailors may have dropped the summer-league game, but lately they have been on a roll. A win against the Rangers would advance them into the state semifinals Friday.

The state championship is Saturday.

Steamboat has won five of its last six games, including a win against No. 3-ranked Pueblo Central during the regional playoffs Saturday.

The task at hand, however, is to knock off a red-hot Lewis-Palmer squad that defeated Broomfield, 48-46, Saturday.

Lewis-Palmer has won nine of its past 10 games, including a 13-point win over Sierra which also is in the Elite Eight of the state basketball tourney.

Meek says the Sailors must step it up a notch and not get caught up in the excitement of playing in front of a large crowd.

"I don't care if we're in a parking lot or at the Pepsi Center," Meek said. "It doesn't matter to me.

"We can't get caught up in what the building is like or the atmosphere, he said. "We really want our kids to stay focused on the one-game situation."

The Rangers have four players that are scoring in double digits, including Will Stingley, Del Billingsley, Craig Bina and Bobby Burling.

Stingley leads the team at about 16 points per game.

The Sailors are led by Andrew Johnston and Ryan Kiely on offense.

Kiely averages 11.1 points per game and Johnston averages 11.6 points and a team-high 6.5 rebounds.

The Sailors have the height advantage over the Rangers, though that is generally the case when they take the court.

Meek says the quickness of Lewis-Palmer will present an enormous challenge to his ball club.

Rangers coach Bob Cavera says his players need to do a better job of shooting the ball.

Against Broomfield, Lewis-Palmer connected on 11 of 20 foul shots and missed miserably from 3-point territory, he said.

Cavera describes his team as "ordinary" but "hard-working."

"We can't even dunk the basketball," Cavera said. "That is the kind of team we are."

Cavera expects a tough, physical game with the Sailors.

Steamboat enters with a 21-3 record and Lewis-Palmer comes in at 20-4.

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