Steamboat Springs The biggest problem that will hang over the heads of Steamboat this weekend will be Rifle's height.
With every starter more than 6 feet tall and the top scorer standing at 6-foot-9, the Bears will be the biggest team the Sailors face all year as they travel to Rifle for a Friday night game. The Sailors continue league competition Saturday when the Glenwood Demons come to town for a 7:30 p.m. showdown.
With the full team practicing, the Sailors are focused this week on the 5-3 Bears.
"They're the biggest team in the league. If you went up and down, they don't have a single player under 6 feet in the top 12," Sailors coach Kelly Meek said.
Leading the team is 6-foot-9 Carl Day, who is averaging 14.1 points and 9 rebounds per game. As a junior, Day did not see much varsity time last year, but this season he has helped fill the void left by four graduated starters.
"(Day) has really improved since he came into the program. He has improved as much as anyone that has been in the program for the last seven years," Bears coach Roger Walters said.
As an all-conference player last year, point guard Andy Gardineer leads the team in experience. While the 6-foot-3 senior leads the state in assists, averaging nine per game, he has also added 12.5 points per game.
"He is very quick. We definitely have to contain him," Meek said.
"He's leading the state in assists and handles the ball really well. We have to work really hard to take away the passing lanes."
Another player the Sailors will be looking out for will be 6-foot-3, 265-pound Steven Winschell. As a wing player, Winschell is known to shoot deep from the court and has averaged about 11 points per game.
Also contributing to a balanced offense is 6-foot-6 Ryan Shideler at 11.3 points per game. Brackett Pollard, 6-foot-2, averages 8.6 points per game.
Despite the Bears' height advantage, Meek sees his team's quickness as an advantage for the Sailors. While the Bears' height makes them a dominating force on the boards, Meek is looking at a well-planned offensive attack to be key to the Sailors' success.
"I feel that we're the better shooting team from deep. We need to be real patient offensively, get the good shot and make them work offensively. We have got to make the big kids work. A lot of quick shots will kill us on the boards," Meek said.
After last week's practice, which had point guard Jeff Aragon and wing Ryan Scheer out for the majority of the time, Meek said this week's preparation has been strong. He said this has been the healthiest his team has been since the start of the season in November.
Aragon, who leads the team with 12.9 points and five steals per game, is still only at 50 percent. But Scheer, the second leading scorer at 12.3 points and six rebounds per game, is close to 100 percent, Meek said.
Even with a home game against the 1-8 Demons on Saturday, the Sailors are focusing their attention on the Bears, who have traditionally been a league championship contender.
"We're going to Rifle and need to execute a high level of intensity the entire night. It's going to take hard work ethic and be a challenge of a game in there," Meek said.