One by one, the members of the Steamboat Springs girls basketball team pushed open the locker room door with a little extra oomph.
There were no smiles after losing to Northridge, 49-47. The Sailors have started 0-4, and even a 13-point comeback and near win Friday left reason to be happy.
"They are a competitive group of girls," Steamboat coach Ashley Berggren said.
But the coach went on to say she has seen improvement from the team this weekend compared with last weekend's losses to Roaring Fork. Senior Kayla Kostur, who led all scorers with 26 points Friday, is the only returning starter from last year's team.
The other members of the starting lineup -- juniors Kelly Labor, Jessica Peters, Missy Chotvacs and Tara King -- were role players last season.
This winter, they have to help carry Steamboat.
"Last year, they looked to the seniors," Berggren said. "Now, I'm asking them to step up and lead."
The only way to improve is to learn from game to game and situation by situation. In the future, Steamboat will be more likely to convert on its chances because of Friday's game. And Friday, the Sailors had more than enough chances to win.
Steamboat found itself down 13 at the half. Thursday, the Sailors found themselves in a similar hole against Montrose but were unable to get closer than six points. Friday, Steamboat came all the way back to tie the game with 3 minutes, 55 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
A running jumper from Chotvacs tied the game at 44-44.
Northridge's Danielle Anderson made one of two free throws to give the Greeley team a one--point lead with less than three minutes remaining.
For the next two minutes, the Sailors turned the ball over four times, missed a shot and two free throws, and the Grizzlies made four free throws to extend their lead from a shaky single point to a more comfortable five.
Kostur hit a free throw with 16 seconds left to close the gap to 49-45. Peters was granted an open look at the end, as the Northridge players retreated to the bench to avoid the possibility of fouling a Steamboat shooter on a 3-point attempt.
Before the game, Kostur said Berggren challenged the team to step up, and Kostur accepted the challenge. She scored most of her 26 points down low and at the free throw line. When Northridge attempted to double-team her in the second half, she scored through the double team.
Even though Steamboat lost, the Sailors didn't give a losing effort. They were essentially one or two breaks or made baskets from winning. The defense gave them the opportunities to win. Making the shots and the right decisions is the next step. After all, the season is just four games old.
"No matter how far behind we are, we know we can come back," Kostur said.
The Sailors wrap up the Steamboat shootout at 9:45 a.m. today against the girls' junior varsity team, which is competing in the varsity bracket.