Sailors on a roll

Girls top Rifle to keep league title hopes alive

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— Bailey Draper is annoying in practice, so teammate Jen Weber can't imagine what opponents are going through during games.

"I hate her playing defense on me," Weber said. "She's everywhere all the time."

Led by Draper's defensive tenacity at the point, the Steamboat Springs girls basketball team prevented Rifle from establishing any comfort on offense, winning 44-33 in front of the home fans. The Sailors improved to 13-1 overall and 5-1 in the league.

Following the win, Draper looked as if she had gone 10 rounds with someone double her size. Her chin was cut up. Both of her arms were scratched, and her legs were purple. In Friday's win against Glenwood Springs, Draper fell pretty hard on her backside, so that was still sore, too.

"For the win, it was worth it," she said.

Draper started both Friday's and Saturday's games in place of senior Anya Allen, who was out with flu-like symptoms.

Admittedly a defensive-oriented player, Draper was a little uncertain about becoming the floor leader in a weekend where the Sailors' league title hopes would either be dashed or kept alive.

"I was scared to step up," she said. "It was a big weekend, but we are in as good a position as we can be right now."

And playing pretty good basketball on top of it.

Steamboat coach Steve Moos didn't have a lot to complain about Saturday night. His team executed relatively well on offense and defense against a very good Rifle team.

"We definitely felt we played our tempo," Moos said.

In other words, the Sailors attempted to run the Bears off the floor and did a pretty good job of it. Rifle is traditionally more comfortable operating out of a halfcourt set, but Steamboat's defense -- led by Draper's shadowing of point guard Kristin Neffendorf -- did a remarkable job limiting Rifle's open shots and easy passes.

The Sailors led 7-6 after one quarter and went into the locker room at the half up 20-14.

The Bears, as expected, opened the third quarter with a little surge of energy, narrowing the lead from six to four points, but the Sailors responded by tightening up on defense and crashing the offensive boards.

Draper and senior Bayli Stillwell each scored two points on offensive putbacks. Junior Erin Christensen added a 3-pointer with 2 minutes and 45 seconds left in the third, extending the Sailors' lead to 31-19.

When Rifle mounted another mini-comeback with two minutes left in the third, Weber stepped up and hit a 3-pointer, moving Steamboat back up 11.

The Bears never threatened in the fourth quarter.

Foul trouble and a short bench likely played a role in Rifle's inability to provide much defensive pressure Saturday. The Bears did full-court trap in the closing minute but wouldn't have had enough possessions to think of winning anyway.

Without Allen, Moos rotated seven Sailors in and out Saturday, subbing whenever a player needed a rest to allow the team to continue pressing on defense and running on offense.

"We found that when we press and are aggressive on defense, we're more aggressive on the offensive end," Draper said.

Weber had a team-high 11 points for the Sailors, while Stillwell contributed another double-double, scoring 10 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. Weber added six rebounds, while Draper added five rebounds and four steals.

Rifle's Krista Wagstrom led all scorers with 15 points.

Steamboat has only one game scheduled for next weekend. Steamboat hosts Battle Mountain Friday. The girls' game begins at 6 p.m. with the boys' game to follow.

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