Steamboat Springs It's not a shot senior Cory Moore practices a lot, but it's a situation he and his team are comfortable in.
Down one with 13.9 seconds left in Friday's game against Cheyenne Central, Moore drove the length of the court, steamrolled into the lane, drew some contact and threw the ball up over his head backward and into the hoop.
He thought he was headed to the free throw line. It turned out the Sailors were headed to a victory, earning a spot in today's final of the Steamboat Shoot-out.
Central's Aaron Colbert missed a last-second shot from right under the hoop securing the 43-42 win for Steamboat.
"I put my head down and honestly I didn't see the other nine guys on the floor," Moore said.
Sailors coach Kelly Meek said his team practices last-second scenarios several times a week. Thus, he is confident his team can win with just one second left on the clock actually it's happened before so a full 14 seconds is an eternity in Steamboat basketball time.
It took Moore only 6.4 seconds to take the inbound pass from junior Kyle Re the length of the court and score.
The play was a designed call the Sailors use to inbound the basketball under heavy pressure.
Moore takes the ball out of bounds, but then Re jumps out of bounds and takes a quick pass from Moore, who then darts onto the court and takes the inbounds pass from Re.
"He just had to create," Meek said. "He's our fastest guy and he's tough."
Moore said the team practices shooting baskets through players and contact. It proved useful Friday night against a very physical Central team from Wyoming.
"I want the ball in my hands," Moore said. "I wouldn't want it any other way."
That's why, Meek said, Moore gets his way. For every last-second shot that goes in, three or four may rim out. A coach wants a player comfortable with either result.
"He's not afraid to fail," Meek said. "It's not about making the shot, it's about missing one."
And for Steamboat, it's about defense as well. The Sailors led for most of Friday's game and came out particularly strong in the first half, pulling ahead 12-6 at the end of the first quarter and extending the lead to 22-15 by halftime.
Less than a minute into the third, senior point guard Kyle Nelson dove for a loose ball and his face landed on a Central player's knee, sending Nelson to the sidelines.
Slowly, Central worked its way back into the game.
The Sailors started settling for quick jump shots instead of working the offense and broke down several times on defense.
At the end of the third, Steamboat's seven-point lead was down to five, and with 6:47 left in the game, Central tied the game at 33.
The teams exchanged leads, knotting the game at 40 with 1:11 left in the game.
Steamboat senior Cody Sherrill made one of two free throws to give his team a 41-40 advantage with 34 seconds left. Central's Chris Lucero responded with his own basket, moving Central up 42-41 with 13.9 left on the clock.
Steamboat called a time out to set up the play that turned out to be the game winner. Moore had only four points in the fourth quarter and nine for the game, but his final two proved to be the biggest.
Sophomore Cameron Burney had 16 points and an impressive 17 rebounds in the win. Senior John Daschle had 10 points.
Moore said he and his teammates knew the Shoot-out would not be an easy tournament considering the level of competition in town.
Meek said the Sailors could easily bring in smaller schools and waltz to a title, but that would provide little benefit to his team.
This tournament is about learning lessons, Meek said, and his Steamboat squad picked up two important ones Friday night.
"First, when we're patient on offense, we get good looks," Meek said. "No. 2, we gained something off the other team gaining momentum. We could have panicked and they could have walked away with a six- or seven-point win."
Central didn't, and Steamboat will play in today's final at 7 p.m. at the high school against Liberal, Kan. Liberal edged Johnson County, Tenn., 55-52, late Friday night.
The third-place game is today at 3:40 p.m. in the old gym at the high school.