Sailor spirit

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— Ryan Kiely tossed a tattered white blanket over his shoulder and ran to center court to join his teammates after he was introduced at a high school pep rally Wednesday.

The blanket, which is covered with super-heroes from the 1980s cartoon show "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe," was made for Ryan by his grandmother, Arlene Kiely, while he was in grade school.

The senior guard, who averages 11.1 points per game, takes it with him before each game as a good luck charm.

Kiely is counting on the blanket to bring his team good fortune when it meets Lewis-Palmer in the state quarterfinals in Denver Thursday night.

The Sailors, who are 21-3, will take the floor at the Pepsi Center at 6:50 p.m.

The Rangers enter with a 20-4 record.

The Sailors were given a rollicking send-off by the students and faculty members of Steamboat Springs High School during a 15-minute-long pep rally that fired up an already hot basketball squad.

The Sailors, who have won five of their past six games, knocked off No. 3-ranked Pueblo Central in the regional playoffs Saturday. They are seeking the Class 4A state championship, which will be determined Saturday. Steamboat must win two games at the state tournament to advance to the title game.

The players boarded the buses shortly after the pep rally for Alameda High School where they ended up practicing Wednesday.

They are scheduled to arrive in Denver early Thursday.

Two other local school buses will head to the Pepsi Center, including one that seats the girls soccer team. On the other bus is the high school pep band.

The soccer players have a scrimmage at Castle Rock Saturday morning but will attend the boys' playoff game together before they travel south to Douglas County.

The soccer players, like the rest of the Sailors fans, have high hopes for the boys basketball team.

Kelly Asbury, a junior soccer player who is the girlfriend of Sailors basketball player Andrew Johnston, says her boyfriend normally has pregame jitters, though she expects Johnston and the rest of the team to do well.

"I think he's pretty nervous," Asbury said. "But, I don't really talk to him that much before games because he's kind of in a game zone. I kind of sit back and let him do his thing."

Mike Rinn, a junior Steamboat Springs student, is one of many Sailors fans who will travel to the state tourney to root the team on.

Rinn, a former Sailors basketball player, is traveling with a group of his friends to the Pepsi Center.

"Most of those guys on the basketball team are my best friends," Rinn said. "I used to play with them. I'm going there to support them."

Steve Moos, athletic director at the high school, expects a large turnout of local fans at the state tourney.

At the Colorado State Fair Events Center in Pueblo Saturday night, about 150 Sailors fans were in attendance, Moos said.

The Sailors basketball players say the fan support this year has been overwhelming. "It means a lot to us," said Jeff Aragon, a junior guard. "They travel to our games, even to Pueblo which is a five-hour drive."

And Kiely, Steamboat's floor general, will likely be clutching his blanket all the way down to Denver.

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