Thursday, February 28, 2002
Grand Junction As Montrose's Zach Smith iced five free throws to seal the win, he spoiled the Steamboat Sailors' chances at gaining a high seed in the regional tournament.
With the Indians ahead 39-38 with less than 30 seconds remaining on the clock, Smith connected on five of six foul shots to give his team a 44-38 win over the Sailors.
Thursday's loss in the first round of the district tournament in Grand Junction will bump the Sailors into the consolation round, where they will vie with four other teams for fifth place and the last regional berth.
After Steamboat's Alex Mackey sank two free throws to bring his team to within one point in the final minute, the Sailors botched their next two possessions and fouled Smith three times.
"We missed a ton of easy shots, had a lot of great looks, turned over the ball. That was so crucial," Sailors coach Kelly Meek said. "It was poor execution."
At 39-38, Sailor Cody Sherrill hacked Smith, who made both foul shots to put the Indians ahead 41-38. On the Sailors' ensuing possession, Mackey drove the ball to the basket but had it stolen by the Indians and Smith was fouled again.
With seven seconds left on the clock, Smith tacked on two more at the line to give the Indians breathing room with a 42-38 lead. Jeff Aragon then took the ball downcourt and drove to the basket but missed the layup.
Smith was fouled for the third and final time with just a second left and sealed the win with one more foul shot.
"(Smith) is just a good, solid player," Indians coach Steve Hill said. "He's a strong shot offensively."
But Smith and the rest of the Indians shooters were not quite as solid at the start of the game when the Sailors jumped out to an early 9-2 lead at the end of the first quarter.
While the Indians' only two points in the first eight minutes came at the foul line, the Sailors' Mackey scored on two buckets from down low, Aragon drained a trey and Ryan Scheer added a basket for a 9-2 lead.
But as the Sailors struggled to find the basket in the second quarter, the Indians quickly closed the gap when Bryce Carroll drained a trey, Smith dodged past Sailors defenders to put in a layup and Carroll scored again on a pass to the inside. Those seven unanswered points tied the game at 9.
"I really believe this: When we miss a lot of easy shots, that time frame is when we forget the defense and fundamentals," Meek said. "And that put (Montrose) right back in the game."
Coming out of the half with the score tied 16-16, Carroll added two points from the foul line. Despite a 3-pointer by Aragon, the Indians pulled ahead 24-19 and forced the Sailors to play catch-up for the rest of the game.
Foul shots were costly for the Sailors in the second half as they accounted for 15 of the Indians' 28 points. The Sailors ended the night with 22 fouls and the Indians seven.
Meek also said missed shots were key to the Sailors' loss. The team finished with an overall shooting percentage of 38 percent. Aragon led the team in scoring with 14 points.
In the first round of the consolation bracket, Steamboat will play Glenwood Springs, a team it has beaten twice this year. The game starts at 8:15 p.m. tonight at Central High School in Grand Junction.