Steamboat enters tourney as No. 4

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— Had Kelly Meek been given the opportunity to call heads or tails, he would have called heads.

"I always choose heads," the Steamboat Springs boys basketball coach said.

In this circumstance, state officials selected heads in place of Meek because a coin flip was required to break the tie between Steamboat and Glenwood Springs.

Both finished at 6-6 in the Western Slope League and had identical head-to-head records against common opponents, necessitating a coin flip.

Steamboat (12-7 overall) won and will enter this weekend's district tournament as the No. 4 seed. Glenwood (8-11) will be the No. 6 seed.

The Sailors' first-round opponent is No. 5 seed Montrose (7-13), the second highest 4A finisher out of the 5A Southwestern League. Montezuma-Cortez won the league despite being a 4A school. The Panthers finished the regular season 16-3 overall.

"We won the flip so we play Montrose," Meek said. "They finished strong at the end. They don't have the wins, but they played up to 5A teams."

Steamboat matches up well with Montrose, Meek said, and his hopes for a strong postseason run were aided by the return of many of his players to practice for the first time in several weeks.

"Monday night was the most solid night of practice," Meek said. "I think we had everyone for a majority of practice."

Steamboat's opening-round game against Montrose is at 8:15 p.m. Thursday at Grand Junction High School. The Sailor girls precede the boys' game at 6:30 p.m.

The Sailors' opponent and game site on Friday is dependent on the outcome of Thursday's game.

"We're sitting on the verge," Meek said. "We've been very successful in tournaments."

Meek is hoping Steamboat fares much better at the district tournament than it did during stretches of the league season. The Sailors started off an impressive 9-1 before dropping six of their next nine games -- all in league play.

In recent weeks, however, Meek has noticed changes in his team's attitude and productivity on the court, indicated by wins at Delta and at home against Glenwood Springs.

The Sailors dropped their regular-season finale, 61-39, at Rifle, but Meek said the Bears (14-5 overall, 12-0 in the league) are the deserving champions.

"They are overall the most physical team by far," Meek said of Rifle. "You are always in for a battle, and if you don't match that physicality, there is someplace in the game where they will capitalize."

The Bears found their window to establish a lead at the outset of the second quarter on Saturday.

The score was tied at 12-12, Meek said, before Rifle reeled off 14 unanswered points before the Sailors stuck a 3-pointer to head into the half.

"They defended well and we missed some good looks," Meek said. "They absolutely killed us inside. They absolutely pounded us in the interior."

Senior John Daschle and junior Kyle Re each had eight points.

Steamboat played Rifle even through the third quarter, before the Bears pulled away in the fourth, as the Sailors extended their defense and fouled in an effort to inch closer than eight points.

Still, Meek said the effort at the beginning of Saturday's game against Rifle was evident. Now, he said, he needs intensity from everyone for the full 32 minutes because less than a top-five finish at the district tournament marks the end of Steamboat's season.

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