Devin Borvansky watched every senior before him finish the basketball season with what ifs and he didn't want the same ending for him and his three other senior teammates.
On Tuesday, however, after falling to Ralston Valley, 54-64, in the opening round of the playoffs, the what ifs were all Borvansky could hold on to, as he made his way to the training room for the last time in his basketball uniform.
That the Steamboat Springs boys basketball team won the Western Slope League title or finished second in a district tournament that few thought the Sailors would advance out of mattered little to Borvansky.
"Those won't bring the season back," he said.
But they certainly made the season memorable for a group of players, particularly four seniors -- Borvansky, Nick Monterotti, Kyle Re and Teal Taylor -- who spent a few years on the short end of a lot of games.
"I'm really proud of the kids," Steamboat coach Kelly Meek said. "Most of the people in the league thought we were in trouble."
The Sailors had to replace what eventually turned out to be their entire starting lineup this season, shuffling players in every direction to field a formidable team. It worked out to 17 wins and six losses and earned Meek the Western Slope League Coach of the Year title.
While Re entered the game in the final two minutes Tuesday, he was severely limited in what he could do because of a hand injury he suffered before the postseason. His injury forced juniors Patrick Ayres and Dustin Moran to assume primary point guard duties and moved junior Henry Howard from the paint to the wing.
Last season, all three were on JV. Ayres and Howard played post, and Moran hardly played, Meek said. Tuesday, while Meek credited Ayres and Moran for their gritty play, Steamboat's lack of a true point guard limited the Sailors' chances of defeating the defending state champions from Ralston Valley.
The only thing quicker than the Mustangs' hands and feet were their minds, as they seemingly anticipated every pass or move before the Sailors made it and positioned themselves for every loose ball before it was picked up.
The Mustangs don't have a lot of height or a lot of power, so they will try to outrun every opponent for the rest of their tournament run. That was the plan against the Sailors.
"We have to try to use (our speed), especially (Tuesday)," Ralston Valley coach Mitch Conrad said. "We heard Steamboat had big kids that like to play physical, and that's not our strength."
The Sailors wish they had exploited the Mustangs' lack of height and strength inside earlier in the game. Steamboat was down 20-9 at the end of the first and 33-21 at halftime. The Sailors inched to within nine on several occasions, but the Mustangs thwarted each Steamboat run with a key basket or steal and subsequent lay-in.
"We didn't handle their pressure well," Meek said.
The Sailors began to foul with two minutes left in the game, trading Taylor's 3-pointers with one Mustang free throw to climb to within nine. Peterson's lay-in with 45 seconds left brought the Sailors to within eight, but that was as close as the home team came.
Shea Scarlett finished with 24 points for Ralston Valley. Teammates Tyler Torrez and Tyler Braketa added 13 and 11 points, respectively. Ayres had 15 points for the Sailors. Monterotti scored 14.
Ralston Valley, 15-8, advances into the Sweet 16 and will face Fountain-Fort Carson on Thursday in Pueblo. Fountain-Fort Carson, the favorite to win this season, defeated Englewood, 80-31, on Tuesday.
--To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208
or e-mail email@example.com