Steamboat Springs West Grand might be the defending 2A state champion, but Steamboat coach Bruce Altston is confident his girls basketball team has what it takes to beat the team.
In the first game of the season, the Sailors travel to Carbondale today to go up against the Mustangs in the first round of the Roaring Fork Tournament.
After three weeks of preseason practices, Alston said his girls are ready to beat the Mustangs and advance to the championship round Saturday night in a tournament that also pits 4A Glenwood Springs against 3A Roaring Fork in the first round.
"I'm pretty confident," Alston said. "We've had a good few weeks of practice."
Only one starter is returning from the team that won the state title last year. The most significant loss is the absence of the twin guards Jessica and Shonda Brown, the Mustangs' biggest scoring threats. Graduation also saw the loss of Hannah Sheehan, a 6-foot senior center.
Last year, the Sailors beat the 2A state champions to advance to the final round of the tournament. In the championship game, the Sailors dropped a double overtime contest, 49-48, to Glenwood Springs.
Alston said he does not know much about the Roaring Fork team, but predicts that Glenwood will once again field a good team. Glenwood is returning two senior starters, Natalie Lancaster and Lauren Scwandeka. The Demons will also be using the play of 6-foot-one Heather Hert.
But Alston has not been focusing on the upcoming opponents. He said he used the preseason competition to get his team ready for league play and the district tournament.
"Early in the season, we don't really focus on the opponents. We focus on what we need to. Our offense system, press break; we don't focus on any one team and do what we do best," Alston said.
Although Alston was not ready to give out a starting lineup the day before the tournament, he did point to some of the players he is expecting to help get the team back to the championship game.
One player is the team's only returning starter, senior Emily Hines. The 5-foot-5 guard will be helped out by 5-foot-9 guard Jennifer Weber. The team's tallest player, 6-foot-1 Tracy Lucas is expected to make a big dent on the boards.
Six-foot junior forward Bayli Stillwell is also expected to be a major player both defensively and offensively. On Wednesday, Stillwell was named as one of the Denver Post's 33 players to watch in Class 4A girls basketball.
Alston has two strong point guards to chose from in junior Anya Allen and senior Jessica Flores.