Sailors face defending state champs today

Steamboat, Ralston Valley square off at 7 p.m.

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— Nobody has beaten the Steamboat Springs boys basketball team at home this season.

Coach Kelly Meek hopes his team can keep that streak intact when Steamboat faces defending state champion Ralston Valley in the first round of the state playoffs at 7 p.m. tonight.

"We are going to get a good one right off the bat," Meek said. "Our kids are going to have to defend well for us to have a chance in this game."

The No. 5 seed Ralston Valley, 14-8 this season, will be a big test for the fourth-seeded Sailors.

The winner of Tuesday's game in Steamboat most likely will earn a chance to face Fountain Fort Carson, the only undefeated 4A team in the state playoff brackets, in the sweet 16. Fountain, 22-0 this season, faces 7-16 Englewood in its first-round game.

"We are just focusing on Ralston Valley and winning this game," Meek said. "Ralston Valley has played a really strong schedule this season and they are very quick with good team depth."

Meek said Ralston Valley, which took the state's 4A crown last March, matches up well with Steamboat.

"We lost seven of our main players from that team," Ralston Valley coach Mitch Conrad said. "We've had to live with that state champion tag all season."

Conrad said living up to last year's state title has not been easy for his team, but he is hoping the squad peaks at the right time.

Meek pointed out that Ralston Valley blew out teams from Conifer and Summit this season. Steamboat beat those same teams, but had to go to overtime in both cases.

"This is a very talented team," Meek said. "They lost their big guy from last year, but they return a great tradition of winning."

That big guy, 6-foot, 10-inch, Nick Fazekas was one of the nation's top recruits last year. He is playing basketball for the University of Nevada.

Even without Fazekas, Ralston Valley's offense is dangerous from outside, Meek said.

"They've got several players who can hit the three," Meek said.

Meek expects to get a lot of pressure from Ralston Valley's 6-foot-3 post Shea Scarlett, as well as guards Taylor Torrez and Ryan Webber. Scarlett, who has averaged 13 points per game this season, also has a nice outside shot. Torrez and Webber have netted 11 each per contest this season, and the Mustangs know how to stretch the court.

Other threats will come from Tyler Draketa, who has come on late this season, and guard Jake Espy.

Steamboat is coming off a second-place finish in last weekend's District 6 championship. The Sailors fell to Montezuma Cortez in the finals, 43-31. But Steamboat has built a 17-5 record this season and garnered the No. 4 slot in the region. Meek is happy with what his team has done this season, but feels they can prove. Conrad is expecting an enthusiastic crowd in Steamboat.

"I can still remember coming up there three years ago," Conrad said. "They had a great crowd and a great atmosphere. I expect the same thing this time around."

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