Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs boys basketball team cracked the top-10 state rankings after defeating Rangely 57-39 Tuesday night.
The Sailors are now ranked eighth in Class 4A, marking the 27th consecutive year coach Kelly Meek's squad has been among the top 10 in the state during the regular season.
Rangely, previously ranked fifth in Class 2A, is just one of six schools Steamboat has beaten this year, as the Sailors improved to 6-1 on the season heading into the league opener against Battle Mountain Friday in Minturn.
Meek said he was particularly pleased with how his team played in its first game back from the two-week winter break. Steamboat's last game was a win over Summit on Dec. 17.
"We were real well-balanced," Meek said. "They were focused on this game. It's a good indication of things to come."
The first four minutes against Rangely were close before Steamboat pulled ahead, ending the first quarter at 19-13.
In the second quarter, the perimeter players found a groove, as they combined for eight three pointers in the first half, extending the Sailors' lead.
Meek said the coaches saw Rangely's tendencies to double down on the low post during the JV game and anticipated the Panthers would do likewise against sophomore Cameron Burney during the varsity contest.
A combination of plays designed to free up the Sailors' outside shooters and good interior passing contributed to Steamboat's ability to fire at will from beyond the arc Tuesday night.
"Rangely covered down on any post feeds," Meek said. "Some of our baskets came off hitting the post and coming back outside. The kids passed the ball really well."
Senior John Daschle had a team-high 18 points. Cory Moore contributed 16 and Burney chipped in 10 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Senior Kyle Nelson had a team-high three assists.
While Meek said he was pleased with his team's passing and offensive execution, he felt the aggressiveness on the boards dropped off from its mid-December peak.
Rebounding will be crucial in the upcoming weeks, Meek said, as his team faces deeper, more athletic teams than Rangely.
Fortunately for the Sailors, plenty of tough competition has come their way in the form of two early season tournaments.
Steamboat won the second tournament, its own, in impressive fashion, relying on strong defensive pressure. Meek is hoping his players haven't forgotten what great team defense can bring, since league season is upon them.
"The kids trust each other a lot defensively," Meek said. "You can always gear back and remember that tournament and always step up more."
Like Steamboat, Battle Mountain defeated Summit, but the Huskies notched another impressive victory to their resume by recently defeating West Grand on the road by 6 points.
West Grand is ranked second in Class 2A.
"Battle Mountain was really strong last year, and like us, lost four starters to graduation," Meek said. "They have a new coach so I just don't know the system. I was pleased with what took place in Rangely, but we still have a ways to go."