Scott Peterson prefers the baseline, but players don't always get to pick their spots on the floor when hitting game-saving or game-winning shots. Friday, Peterson made both from the top of the arc to help lift Steamboat to a 42-39 overtime win against Palisade.
Steamboat will face the winner of the Montezuma-Cortez/Rifle game in the District 6 championship at 7:45 p.m. today in Fruita. Peterson's game-winning 3-pointer came with 42 seconds left in overtime Friday. Senior Nick Monterotti set up the possession by blocking Michael Embrey's shot, allowing the Sailors to get into their Adams State offense. Peterson was left unguarded at the top of the arc, and he drained a three to give Steamboat a 40-39 lead.
Embrey, who poured in more than 30 points for Palisade on Thursday, was held to just 10 on Friday. He tried to get 12 but his shot came up short again with 13 seconds left, forcing Palisade to foul. Steamboat junior Patrick Ayres stepped to the line after a Palisade timeout and promptly hit both his free throws to give the Sailors their final three-point margin of victory.
Brian Austin attempted to tie the game with five seconds left, but his deep three-point shot caught nothing but air as Teal Taylor grabbed the rebound for the Sailors as time expired.
Earlier this season, Ayres made 46 straight free throws in practice, but he hardly had nerves of steel in overtime.
"I was so nervous," he said. "It's been a long time since I've been at the line at the end of a (close) game."
It didn't appear as if Steamboat would get a chance to send the game into overtime after Austin's running, off-balance bankshot that gave the Bulldogs a 37-35 lead with 21 seconds remaining in regulation. Peterson had different ideas, stepping up -- and stepping just inside the arc -- to hit the game-tying shot with 3 seconds left, the first of his two big shots Friday.
"The first shot came on a set play," Peterson said. "The second shot wasn't a set play. I opened up."
Coach Kelly Meek has no hesitation using Peterson, a sophomore, in clutch situations. Steamboat is 6-2 this season in games decided by less than five points, and every Sailor appears unusually calm in close games.
"Down the stretch we dig down deep and find a way to pull it out," Peterson said. "That's a strength of our team."
And the Sailors find themselves one win away from a championship and an automatic home game in the opening round of the playoffs next week. "I'm really pleased with them," Meek said.
"Two ex-players came in and talked and said that this team really plays hard for each other. They stay together."
Ayres led the way for Steamboat Friday with 10 points. Peterson scored nine, all in the fourth quarter and overtime. Monterotti added eight, and Henry Howard, who continues to give Steamboat quality minutes in the place of injured guard Kyle Re, scored seven.
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