Sailor girls open districts vs. Indians

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— Next Monday, at 2:45 p.m., the Sailors girls basketball team has practice scheduled.

That is how confident the Sailors are that they will advance out of the district tournament this weekend and into the regional round next weekend.

"We don't want the season to end quite yet. We've got a little more basketball we want to play," Sailors coach Bruce Alston said.

For the seventh-ranked Steamboat team, the first roadblock on the path to the regional tournament is Montrose, the second-ranked team in the tournament. In the first round of the eight-team district tournament, the Sailors will go up against the Indians at 3 p.m. Thursday in Grand Junction.

"It's a little bit fun being the underdog," Alston said. "We're supposed to go over there and get beaten. But I'm kind of thinking that it is not going to happen. We're going to play as hard as we can possibly play."

With a 13-5 overall record, the Indians stand at third in the Southwestern Conference, a league that pulls from four 5A schools and 4A schools Montezuma-Cortez and Mont-

rose.

Although Alston said he has never scouted Montrose, he does know that it is a talented team that shoots the ball well, plays good defense and runs the floor.

The relatively tall team is expected to play man defense, a system that works well for the Sailors, Alston said. He also likes the depth of the Sailors' bench, which he hopes will bring fresh legs to the court.

Ranked as one of the top 10 teams in the state this season, Montrose has gone up against Rifle and Palisade, both Western Slope teams that have beaten Steamboat. In the preseason, the Indians beat the Bears, 36-28, and the Bulldogs, 52-15.

The district tourney is a double-elimination format that sends five teams to regionals. If the Sailors win their first game, they have a definite berth in the regional tournament. A win against Montrose also means Steamboat will advance into the semifinals and play two more games to determine first to fourth places.

If the Sailors lose to the Indians, they are bumped into the consolation bracket where the four teams will do battle for the fifth and final place to go to regionals.

Depending on the outcomes of Thursday's games, Steamboat has the chance of meeting Palisade or Rifle in Friday's round of either the championship or consolation brackets. The Sailors lost to both teams twice during regular-season league play, but Alston said his team has improved in the past month.

In their most recent matchup with the Bulldogs, the Sailors lost the game at the buzzer after the Bulldogs rallied in the fourth quarter to pull ahead for a 58-56 win.

"We haven't played as well as we can play against either of the teams," Alston said. "There's a lot of teams we believe we can beat."

Coming into the tournament, district champions Moffat County return as the favorites. Not losing a game since their season-opening tournament in Vernal, Utah, the Bulldogs ended league play undefeated.

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