Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs boys basketball team has picked up four straight wins and plenty of momentum just in time for the long winter break.
The Sailors are 5-1 overall courtesy of their latest victory, a 69-49 breezer over Summit Tuesday night on the road. Steamboat's lone loss came against Green River, Wyo., in the season opener in Carbondale on Dec. 6.
Sailors coach Kelly Meek was less than impressed with his Sailors' intensity at the Roaring Fork Tournament earlier this month. Things have since taken a turn in the opposite direction.
"We're really tough minded defensively and on the boards for as small as we are," Meek said. "That to me is really standing out. We are finally getting some offensive patience."
The growth in offense has been a progression from game to game. Starting point guard Kyle Nelson sat out Tuesday's contest against Summit -- his second straight absence -- as he continues to recover from bruised muscles around his eye.
Meek said Nelson could have played, but there was little need, however, to rush the aggressive defender back onto the court against a non-league opponent.
In Nelson's place, senior John Daschle has grown up.
"He's doing a real good job stepping in at the point," Meek said of Daschle.
Most of Daschle's maturing came in the Sailors' 57-53 win over Liberal, Kan., in the championship game of the Steamboat Shoot-out held over the weekend.
Daschle spent a large portion of the first half dealing with Liberal pickpocket Cory James before Daschle learned how to handle the ball against a quicker, more athletic guard.
"John didn't have any turnovers (Tuesday)," Meek said. "From the point guard that's really, really crucial."
And he should only get better. The return of Nelson provides Meek with coveted coaching options. Meek said he may be able to utilize Nelson's speed and passing ability from the wing, while rotating Daschle to the point at times.
Meek's son-in-law, Mike Moskowitz, coach at Adams State, is in town to work more closely with the varsity players on their ball-handling skills this week.
Meek said the Sailors couldn't learn from a savvier dribbler, since Moskowitz, raised in the Washington, D.C., area, grew up playing against current NBA star Allen Iverson.
Playing against the unparalleled quickness of Iverson would make any player better, and Moskowitz is in town to help polish the Steamboat players up.
Two players that have provided critical minutes for Steamboat, but don't often receive recognition, are junior Kyle Re and senior Cody Sherrill.
They aren't the top scorers or rebounders, but their consistency and hard work on the court have proven valuable in Steamboat's recent run.
Last season, Meek said Re wasn't really a factor on the JV squad, but a change in attitude has elevated the junior's playing time on varsity.
"He's come a long ways," Meek said.
Sherrill, on the other hand, is one of the most coachable kids Meek's ever worked with, and said it's hard to ever pull the senior off the court.
"That sucker doesn't care if he scores or grabs a rebound," Meek said of Sherrill. "He epitomizes the heart of our team. He had a tremendous defensive game (on Tuesday)."
In Tuesday's win, Daschle scored a team-high 22 points. Senior Cory Moore had 17 points and the two guards combined to have nine assists.
Sophomore Cameron Burney had 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Steamboat's last practice will be on Dec. 23. The Sailors will resume organized practice on Jan. 2. They return to the court on Jan. 7 against Rangely.
"We have some things we haven't shown and we'll work on," Meek said.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org