Steamboat Springs As the buzzer ended the Steamboat vs. Palisade game Saturday night, so did the Sailors' hopes of entering the league tournament with a winning record.
Down 58-56 with less than 10 seconds left on the clock and no timeouts, Sailor Emily Hines missed her last of three free throws, Shelly Dunlop captured the rebound and passed the ball back to Hines, whose shot missed the basket just as the clock ran out.
That gave the Sailors their seventh league loss.
Coming into the fourth quarter up 44-39, it looked like the Sailors were in reach of their goal to go on a four-game winning streak before entering the district tournament.
But Palisade turned on the defensive pressure and offensive juices to keep the Sailors at 44 until midway into the fourth quarter, while they racked up eight unanswered points.
With the Bulldogs up 47-44, Sailor Baily Draper sank two foul shots to put the Sailors trailing at one.
But the 5-foot-11 Cindy Dann quickly tacked on two baskets for the Bulldogs before the Sailors found the boards again with a foul shot from Jennifer Weber. Dann responded with another basket to put the game at 53-47.
A Sailor basket and Bayli Stillwell's foul shot brought the game to within four with less than two minutes left. After Bulldog Kendra Nash sank one foul shot, and then the Sailors' Weber sank two, the game stood at 55-53.
Dann got one more basket in the final 30 seconds of the game. But on the next possession, Hines was fouled and sank her two shots.
Back in Bulldogs territory, a foul shot put the game at 58-54. When the Sailors took over the ball, Hines got the pass, aimed for a 3-pointer and got fouled. With a little more than nine seconds on the clock, Hines made her first two three throws and put the Sailors to within two. As Hines missed on her last shot, Dunlop rebounded the ball and passed to Hines, who missed as the clock ticked off to give the Bulldogs the win.
Sailors coach Bruce Alston said while his team could have transitioned better, it still played well against a team it lost 52-44 to three weeks ago.
"The defense was good. We caused a lot of turnovers. We felt like we didn't run the floor, as we need to do. We dribbled up the floor fine, but we need to transition with the passing," Alston said. "The effort was good. It wasn't a bad game, just disappointing because we lost."
He also pointed out that his players had trouble combating the inside play of Dann and Kelsey Harrington, who finished the night leading the team with 18 points.
Despite a 10-point deficit coming out of the first quarter, two treys from Weber and a three-point play from Hines put the Sailors within striking distance. After Tracy Lucas put two points in at the foul line, Jessica Flores drained another 3-pointer to give the Sailors a 23-21 lead, their first of the night.
After suffering through a barrage of 3-point bombs from Weber, Bulldogs coach Kim Parker said they stepped up their defense in the fourth quarter.
"I think our defense was the difference. We knew we had to shut down (Weber) because she lit it up," she said. "We played tighter defense to win."