With Cameron Burney's alley-oop slam off a pass from Dustin Morgan in the opening moments of Thursday's game, the Steamboat Springs boys basketball team started the Steamboat Shootout in emphatic fashion, defeating Montrose, 56-42.
The Sailors trailed just one, 13-12, but wasted little time getting the lead back for good when Burney turned two blocked shots into a steal and assist on senior Collin Hare's lay-in with 22 seconds left in the first quarter.
Last time Steamboat faced Montrose, the Indians beat the Sailors by one.
Thursday, behind solid passing, offensive balance and good defense, Steamboat controlled the game from opening tip to closing whistle. But the Sailors weren't entirely pleased with their effort Thursday.
"On offense, it was good," said Burney, who finished with 16 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots, "But on defense, we need to work a little harder."
Then Sailors coach Kelly Meek, known for his love of defense, walked by.
"We need to work a lot harder," Burney said, revising his statement with a grin.
Burney spent the summer playing on a traveling team in Denver, but he's happy to be back playing with his Steamboat teammates again.
"I feel this year the chemistry is unbelievable," Burney said.
Not to be outdone by Burney's dominance down low, Steamboat's perimeter players worked themselves into the offense in the first half behind Hare's 10 points off the bench. Burney said the player everyone calls "Tiny" has stepped up big in the team's first three games.
The Sailors extended an eight-point halftime lead to 10 by the end of the third quarter when senior Patrick Ayres drained a 3-pointer on a set play after a quick timeout.
Steamboat turned it on in the fourth, going on an 11-4 run to open the quarter behind a three-point play from Moran and four points from Burney off offensive rebounds.
Meek said Steamboat played much better against Montrose this season compared with last year, and the Indians aren't an easy team to defend against.
"They run straight cuts, tight cuts, slip cuts," Meek said. "They have so many guys near the glass to crash the boards."
Tyler Rawlings and Cleveland Jones led Montrose with 14 and 10 points, respectively.
In addition to Burney's 16, Ayres Hare and Moran all had 12 points. Moran and senior Tyler Fosdick each had five assists.
"We are passing the ball well right now," Meek said.
Steamboat (2-1 overall) advances in the championship bracket and will face Conifer at 8:15 p.m. today at the high school.
Montrose plays Aspen at 3 p.m.