Monument With his team down 18 points, Steve Moos didn't spend halftime reflecting on the season or instructing his Steamboat girls basketball players to just enjoy the second half of their regional game against Lewis-Palmer.
He told the Sailors to go win the game.
And they nearly did, falling 51-49 to the Rangers in Monument Wednesday night.
Steamboat outscored Lewis-Palmer 35-17 in the second half behind a smothering team defense that frustrated the Rangers into cursing at themselves.
"That's how I always envisioned us playing," Moos said. "I didn't think the effort was there in the first half. I told them you have one half left. Don't have any regrets."
The Sailors have little to regret from their final 16 minutes in Wednesday night's game.
They are just upset about the first 16.
"We came out so strong in the second half," senior Anya Allen said. "We had to. It's just disappointing we didn't do that in the first half."
Despite a less-than-perfect first half, Steamboat cut its 18-point deficit to just seven by the end of third quarter. Most of the credit goes to the defense the team played on Ranger stars Amy Bladow and Danielle Page.
The two combined for 24 first-half points but had just 14 in the second half.
The fourth quarter started shaky for both teams, as each took turns giving the ball away. But the Sailors regained their composure and post players Tracy Lucas and Bayli Stillwell attacked the basket and the 6-foot-2 Bladow scored six of Steamboat's next eight points over the next two minutes.
Junior Bailey Draper added her only two points of the night on an easy lay-in at the 3:37-mark, pulling the Sailors to within three at 43-46.
Steamboat moved to within one point off Stillwell's bucket on an inbounds play with 53 seconds left, but that was as close as they could get,
as Lewis-Palmer's Kathryn Saunders and Krysten Peek went a combined 3-of-4 from the line to prevent the Sailors from evening things up down the stretch.
It was the only points either girl scored all night.
"We burned a lot of energy coming back," Moos said. "I thought if we could just get the lead one time, you never know how the other team will react."
On two straight possessions in the final 20 seconds, senior Jen Weber, Steamboat's most dangerous 3-point shooter, got two open looks from behind the arc but was unable to convert.
Down four on the final possession, Weber finally scored, but the Rangers didn't even come out onto the court, ensuring that no one fouled a Sailors shooter on a 3-point attempt.
"I probably couldn't ask for more from the second half except the win," Weber said. "I'm really proud of this team."
Weber mentioned how important the underclassmen were to the season's success, as Steamboat finished 17-6.
Junior Shelley Dunlop, however, said the seniors played a huge part in turning the program around.
Last year, the Sailors failed to advance out of the district tournament.
This year, they nearly advanced into the second round of regionals as a No. 23 seed. Lewis-Palmer was the 10th seed.
"The heart the seniors put in on the court made the team better," Dunlop said. "The changes we made this year they initiated. That's what brought us here."
Allen said every senior class leaves something behind for future teams to latch onto and use to better next year's squad.
Moos said the underclassmen sitting on the bench should be inspired by what the seniors did this season and Wednesday night.
"They set the standard," Moos said. "You have to remember how tough it is to come so close and not get it, and use this as motivation in May and June."
The graduating Sailors are Anya Allen, Jannike Combs, Tracy Lucas, Bayli Stillwell and Jen Weber.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org