Steamboat Springs Kelly Meek hates to lose. He just wishes more of his Steamboat Springs boys basketball team despised coming up short as much as he does.
The Sailors' latest setback, a 51-49 loss to Moffat County, stung because it was at home and because Steamboat (10-5 overall, 4-4 in the league) had opportunities to win.
With just more than one minute left in Tuesday's game, senior John Daschle gave Steamboat a one-point lead after converting a three-point play off Moffat County guard Pablo Loya's fourth foul.
Nearly 20 seconds later, the senior guard picked up his fifth foul after riding Daschle down the sideline in front of the Bulldogs' bench.
With Loya done, Daschle missed the front end of the one-and-one, but teammate Cameron Burney came up with the offensive rebound and was fouled.
Burney stood at the free-throw line with 34.3 seconds left and missed the front end of his one-and-one.
In two possessions, the Sailors had the chance to extend their lead from one point to as much as five -- a fact not lost on Meek.
"I feel like we worked hard at preparing," he said. "We just need to be more consistent at executing it."
On Moffat County's subsequent possession, off an inbounds pass under the basket, forward Anthony Loughran got an easy lay-in from point-blank range, pushing the Bulldogs back in the lead with 14.2 seconds left.
"That play hasn't worked since Christmas," Moffat County coach Mike LeWarne said.
The Sailors had nine seconds to answer. Senior Cody Sherrill got the ball to mid-court before Steamboat called timeout to set up a play that never materialized, as the Sailors turned it over with 4.5 seconds left.
A quick foul from Sherrill sent Brian Skowronski to the line for a one-and-one. He made the first but missed the second.
On Skowronski's second free throw, the basketball bounced up, hitting the chords above the basket, which technically is out of bounds -- meaning the play should have been whistled dead.
The Sailors did get the rebound and called timeout, giving them 3.2 seconds to set up a play to either tie the game or win. Had the whistle blown, Steamboat would have had as much as four seconds to get a shot off.
Even with 3.2 seconds remaining, senior Kyle Nelson caught the inbounds pass across midcourt, near the right sideline, turned and heaved up a 3-point shot that banked in, sending the Steamboat crowd into a frenzy.
Unfortunately for the Sailors, the referee called Nelson out of bounds before the shot was released.
Moffat County got the basketball in and ran out the last second, taking both games from Steamboat during the regular season to maintain its stronghold on second place in the league.
During the course of Tuesday's game, the Sailors led by as many as 13 points in the third quarter, before, Meek said, his team forgot everything it was instructed to do heading into the contest.
Loya had all 12 of Moffat County's points in the third frame, as he singlehandedly lifted his team back into the game.
"We got that 13-point lead and we broke away from the game plan," Meek said. "That's a killer. I give Moffat County credit. Pablo just made big plays."
Meek continued by saying that Steamboat had guys who just made mistakes. He was pleased, however, with the effort and attention his Sailors did give for a majority of the contest.
Meek hasn't been pleased with his team's offensive and defensive performances in recent weeks. On Tuesday, even in a losing effort, the Sailors regained some of their early season form.
"I'm pleased with the way we made strides," Meek said. "It gives me heart that we started looking more like we can look. We had this really prepared well. We're going to be a team that people don't want to see come tournament time."
The postseason is just more than two weeks away. Before that time, Meek said he wants his kids to step it up in practice and bring a determination to win. He also wants an interior presence to emerge to complement his perimeter shooters and perhaps provide them with additional open looks.
Burney gave the Sailors a jolt of energy at times Tuesday, seemingly taking the ball to the basket with ease when he attacked the rim, scoring 18 points. Daschle led the Sailors with 19 points.
LeWarne said Burney wasn't a factor the last time the teams met in Craig on Jan. 24, scoring just eight points.
"He was just on fire (Tuesday)," LeWarne said of Burney. "He was the difference offensively for Steamboat."
Steamboat returns to action again Friday when the team travels to Delta for a 7:30 p.m. game. Steamboat plays Palisade at 6 p.m. Saturday in Palisade.