Coach Steve Moos wanted competitive, tightly contested games to give his Steamboat Springs girls basketball players experience and to see how they would respond.
His wish was granted, and the Sailors answered the challenge, winning two close games in the fourth quarter against Delta and Palisade on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Steamboat defeated Delta 54-39, and beat Palisade, 66-50, to increase its win streak to five.
And while the Sailors' final margin of victory was double digits in both games, Moos said Steamboat did not pull away until the fourth quarter in either match-up.
"We really hit free throws well," Moos said. "Everybody pretty much stepped up and hit them."
The two road wins moved Steamboat to 7-2 overall and 2-0 in league play.
Delta and Palisade had difficulty matching Steamboat's energy level in the fourth quarter last weekend. The Sailors pressed for the majority of both games, but the team's depth and conditioning level proved too much for either the Panthers or Bulldogs to handle.
Steamboat and Delta entered the fourth quarter tied Friday, but the Sailors executed better offensively and defensively down the stretch.
Senior Erin Christensen led the way with 17 points for Steamboat, including three three-point baskets in the second half.
"She was really hitting shots," Moos said. "We were still hitting shots, and Delta seemed to lose its legs on shots. Offensively we were still as good as in the first."
Senior Shelley Dunlop had 13 points down low for the Sailors, as well.
Against Palisade, Christensen and Dunlop again led the way offensively for Steamboat. Dunlop had 16 points, while Christensen chipped in with 14.
Senior Bailey Draper, Steamboat's primary ball handler, had 10 points, including six free throws late in the game.
"Bailey really handled the pressure well in both games and minimized her turnovers," Moos said. "That was huge for us. ... Both games were very similar. They were dogfights for three quarters, which was great. We hadn't had a lot of those. We really kept our composure and eventually pulled away."
Moos is expecting tightly contested league games for the remainder of the season, starting this weekend against Rifle and Glenwood Springs.
Based on its number of returning starters, Rifle is favored to win the Western Slope title. Steamboat and Rifle play at 6 p.m. Friday at Steamboat Springs High School.
The Sailors will then travel to Glenwood Springs for a 6 p.m. game Saturday.
Steamboat defeated Glenwood easily at the Roaring Fork Tournament in December, but Moos is preparing for a different Demons team this weekend.
"I expect them to be tough," he said. "They seem to be playing better lately."
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