Grand Junction For a team in a do-or-die situation, the Sailors looked like they were having too much fun as they clobbered Glenwood Springs in the first quarter 19-5 and continued on to a 64-52 win.
After losing to Montrose in the first round of the district tournament, Steamboat had to win Friday night's game against Glenwood to advance to today's playoff that determines fifth place and the final berth to the regional tournament.
But an early lead thanks to Cody Sherrill's two 3-pointers put the smiles back on the Sailors' faces and took the pressure off. While the Sailors rocked to a 36-17 halftime lead with five 3-pointers and strong inside play, freshman Cameron Burney capped off the Sailors' feel-good mood with the first dunk of the season.
"It was a fun win, something we needed," senior Alex Mackey said. "We were put in a position we've never been in before. There was a little bit of fear. But we had fun. It's a position that I find exhilarating."
This is the first time Mackey and the team's four other seniors are in a must-win situation to advance to the regional tournament. For the past three years, the Sailors had won the opening district game, which guarantees a spot in the regional tournament.
The Sailors came out strong as Mackey followed up Sherrill's two treys with two buckets from inside, and Ryan Scheer tacked on a foul point.
With a 13-2 lead, the Sailors let the Demons tack on their second basket, but John Daschle then retaliated with a 3-pointer. Demon Reilly Anderson added a point at the foul line, but the Sailors would drop another 3-pointer when Cory Moore drained one right before the buzzer to put the Sailors up 19-5 at the end of the first quarter.
"In the first quarter, our defense just totally stopped them," Sailors coach Kelly Meek said. "And it helped having five guys being able to share the ball on offense."
The momentum built in the second quarter as point guard Jeff Aragon took the ball downcourt and then drove into the center for a layup. Scheer followed it up with a trey and Burney added two points on the line.
Burney put in another two off a putback from a Scheer shot and then went deep for another two. That put the Sailors up 30-7 midway into the second quarter.
Burney's dunk came in the fourth quarter when Rod Beall threw the ball down to Burney, who stood wide open under the basket. Burney leapt up to catch the ball, dropped it into the basket and hung onto the rim as he claimed the first Sailors dunk of the season.
After Thursday's game that had the Sailors at 38 percent shooting, Meek said he told his team to not worry about the end result of the shot and to play as a team.
"We just really talked about coming out and playing with passion and being positive with each other," he said. "Our kids wanted to win so bad (against Montrose) that they never could relax."
Scheer led the night with 17 points, Burney followed with 14 and Mackey had 12.
Today Steamboat will face the winner of Friday night's matchup against Battle Mountain and Moffat County. All three teams have split league games this season.