In November, after starting the season 0-2, the Steamboat Springs boys basketball team would have been ecstatic about just making it to the district final game.
But after playing in it Saturday night and walking away in second place, the Sailors weren't pleased with the 43-31 loss to Montezuma-Cortez. "They are mad. I'm very upset, too," Steamboat coach Kelly Meek said. "We broke the defensive rules."
The focus for the Sailors' defense was on shooters Ryan Mortensen and Caleb Valdez, and it quickly became apparent why. Cortez, led by Mortensen and Valdez, came out with no hesitation, knocking down five 3-pointers in the first quarter.
The Panthers built as much as a nine-point lead in the second before the Sailors' defense began suffocating Cortez's guards. Patrick Ayres hit a deep three, and Devin Borvansky followed it up on the next possession with a quick put-back on an offensive rebound to get Steamboat right back in the game before the half. The teams played fairly even through the third, often taking more than 30 seconds per possession while working the ball to get a good shot. But the Panthers gave themselves some cushion early in the fourth, going on a 7-0 run to build a double-digit lead.
Any window Mortensen and Valdez had to shoot -- no matter where they were at -- they took, combining for 33 points in the game and 15 of the team's 17 scored in the second half.
"They are good shooters," Cortez coach Wade Mortensen said. "They could actually shoot more, but they are team players." And they are playing on a good team trying to emerge from the shadows of some truly great Panthers squads over the last several years. Winning the District 6 championship, Cortez's fourth in a row, certainly gives them some confidence heading into the postseason.
"These guys play with so much heart," Wade Mortensen said. With the win, Cortez is guaranteed a home game this week. Steamboat, on the other hand, will have to wait to see. Mortensen thought the Sailors deserved a home game, but Meek said he isn't sure Steamboat will get one because of some other results at regional competition in the state. Brackets will be released this afternoon.
The five teams representing District 6 are Cortez, Steamboat, Palisade, Rifle and Montrose.
The Western Slope League all-league teams were named after the championship game, as well. Borvansky and Kyle Re were Steamboat's representatives, while Coach Kelly Meek was named Western Slope Coach of the Year. Glenwood Springs' Sean Flohr was named Western Slope Player of the Year.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org