Thursday, February 26, 2004
Shelley Dunlop thought the Steamboat Springs girls lost Thursday.
With only 24 seconds left, the senior Sailor figured if Moffat County scored, the game was over. So when Stephanie Brown drained a short jumper to give the Bulldogs a one-point lead with 11 seconds left, Dunlop thought the Sailors were headed to defeat and the consolation bracket.
But Dunlop preferred the way the game actually ended -- with her buzzer-beater from the middle of the lane -- giving Steamboat the 44-43 victory in the first round of the District 6 tournament.
The Bulldogs showed press on the inbounds with 11 seconds left but backed off, enabling the Sailors to get quickly into their triangle offense. Steamboat senior Melissa White took the ball toward the left sideline -- opposite the benches -- and dribbled into a trap. Then a voice saved her.
"I heard Shelley," White said. "I jumped up and threw it. ... It's the playoffs. We were ready for this one."
Dunlop took White's pass, turned and drove into the lane, stopping just short of the hoop to release a shot that skimmed the rim and fell in as time expired. The win guarantees the Sailors no worse than a fourth-place finish in the district and gives them a spot in next week's playoffs.
Moffat County, meanwhile, will have to win two straight games to take fifth. The top five teams in District 6 advance to the playoffs.
Sailors coach Steve Moos was hoping to have Dunlop down the stretch, but he wasn't sure he would when she picked up her third foul midway into the second quarter on an uncharacteristic reaching foul. Dunlop had only been in foul trouble once this season.
"That's not how I play," Dunlop said. "I hate being on the bench."
Dunlop, Kayla Kostur and Lindsay Stanford, who had four fouls Thursday, primarily were responsible for defending the Bulldogs' dangerous post players. They did a respectable job, holding Moffat County's Brandie Telfer to 14 points, while Mari Katherine Raftopoulos and Erin Robinson added eight each.
Dunlop and Kostur, meanwhile, combined to score 28 points. Kostur scored 10 of her 13 in the first half, while Dunlop scored all but two of her 15 in the second.
"For the most part, we did well," Moos said. "They were getting some easies in the first half, but I thought we made them work in the second. ... I wish we would have stopped them there at the end, but credit them. That was a good shot."
The Bulldogs watched the Sailors celebrate a last-second, game-winning shot for the second time this season. Steamboat defeated Moffat County earlier this season on a late 3-pointer, but Thursday's shot stung more.
For one, it's the postseason. Second, the Bulldogs seemed poised to distance themselves from the Sailors several times Thursday.
In the closing three minutes of the third, up 34-28, the Bulldogs failed to capitalize on two Steamboat turnovers. Sailor Missy Chotvacs hit a basket with one minute left, pulling the Sailors back to within four as the quarter ended.
The sophomore hit another big shot for Steamboat with 1:50 left in the game, banking in a 3-pointer and pulling the Sailors to within one, the closest they had been to the Bulldogs since the third quarter.
"I wasn't even nervous," Moos said after the win. "You know it's going to come down to one play, and you can't control everything."
Steamboat will face Montrose at 6:30 p.m. today at Fruita-Monument High School with a trip to the finals on the line.
Moffat County will take on Palisade at 6:30 p.m. at Palisade in an elimination game.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208
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