The Steamboat Springs boys basketball team enters today's District 6 basketball tournament as the top seed -- but not necessarily the favorite to win.
The Sailors snagged the top seed after winning the Western Slope League title last week. But the loss of senior Kyle Re to a season-ending hand injury changes Steamboat's chances of capturing the district title.
"That's the challenge we put to them," Sailors coach Kelly Meek said. "We addressed it right away and challenged them to step up and fill that void and not panic."
Re was Steamboat's quickest perimeter defender, its primary ball handler against the press and one of the team's best three-point shooters. He will be sorely missed, but Steamboat has dealt with lineup changes and roster scrambles all season, Meek said.
"I look at it and say I want to get better this week," senior Nick Monterotti said. "But we look at it as a team -- as something else to get past."
Steamboat opens the tournament at 8:15 p.m. today against No. 8 seed Battle Mountain. The Sailors defeated the Huskies, 72-27, on Feb. 19 to close the regular season, but Battle Mountain played without its best player in that contest, Meek said.
As the top seed, Steamboat avoids any early-round games against Montezuma-Cortez and either Moffat County or Rifle, the two teams that defeated Steamboat in league play.
"I never thought having the top seed would matter, but I think it helps," Monterotti said.
If Steamboat defeats Battle Mountain, it will play the winner of the Palisade/Montrose game at 4:45 p.m. Friday at Fruita Monument High School. If the Sailors lose, they will play the loser of the Palisade/Montrose game at 4:45 p.m. Friday in Palisade.
The top five teams from District 6 advance to next week's playoff seeding round in both the boys and girls brackets.
The Steamboat Springs girls basketball team is the No. 6 seed coming into today's game, which got the Sailors a 6:30 p.m. match-up with No. 3 seed Moffat County.
"We're totally excited," senior Erin Christensen said.
The Sailors and Bulldogs split during the regular season, so both teams know they can defeat the other. The difference, Steamboat coach Steve Moos said, comes down to the paint and how well the Sailors defend and rebound in that area.
"They have a good inside game," senior Melissa White said. "By taking away that, it will be a more even matchup."
Which team shoots better from the perimeter also may make the difference. Steamboat held the edge in the first game, but Moffat County's guards made the difference in the second.
"I think the biggest thing is not to force things and make sure the passes are there," Christensen said. "We have to read them."
If Steamboat wins, it will face the winner between Montrose and Palisade at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Fruita Monument. If Steamboat loses, it will face the loser of the Montrose/Palisade game at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Palisade.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org