Steamboat Springs Steamboat's boys basketball team will be looking for a three-peat when it travels to Carbondale today for the Roaring Fork Tournament.
For the past two years, the Sailors have opened their season as tournament champions, each time coming out on top in a down-to-the-wire game.
For the 2001 season-opener, the Sailors will begin the first round of tournament play against West Grand, a 2A team they beat 76-38 last year.
Although the Mustangs are ranked seventh in the state for Class 2A teams and return all of last year's starters from the 11-11 season, coach Leo Pesch is hoping to keep his team within 20 points of the Sailors.
"We've got all of our returning starters, but we're still not competing with Steamboat," Pesch said.
One of those starters made the biggest dent in the Sailors' game last year. James Holmes, a
6-foot-6 senior, was the leading scorer in the Steamboat game with 16 points. The Mustangs will also return 6-foot-5 senior Jay Yust and 6-foot-4 junior Jared Robertson.
Those three forwards and the addition of 6-foot-2 and 5-foot-11 guards will make the Mustangs a threat size-wise.
"We're good athletes, but not great basketball players. It'll take us a while to become good basketball players," Pesch said.
The Mustangs' size might not be enough to offset the Sailors, who were ranked among the state's top 10 in Class 4A basketball for the 26th-straight year.
Coming into tonight's game, Sailors coach Kelly Meek is setting up a three-man perimeter system that will have the team's only returning starter, Jeff Aragon, at point guard and juniors Kyle Nelson and Cody Sherril as the other guards.
Meek is planning on a strong inside with 6-foot-5 Alex Mackey and 6-foot-3 Ryan Scheer, players who saw significant varsity time last year. Coming off the bench as the Sailors' sixth man will be junior John Daschle.
After three weeks of preseason practice, Meek sees rebounding as the No. 1 problem for the Sailors. But the offense, which he questioned last week, has started to smooth out, he said.
In the first game of the season, Meek said there is not much of a chance to do any scouting, but he has done some prep work with his team on the games the Mustangs have played in the past.
"We've been working with ourselves mostly this week. But, we made some changes on what they've done in the past," Meek said.
If the Sailors beat the Mustangs, they would advance to the championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday, where they would play the winner of Roaring Fork vs. Glenwood Springs.
Last year, the Sailors came from behind to pull out a 49-47 win against the Glenwood Demons. The year before, the Sailors went down to the buzzer with Roaring Fork before capturing a one-point victory.
Meek is expecting another strong showing from the Demons, who, like the Sailors, lost most of their starting lineup to graduation.