Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs boys basketball team lost to Liberty in Saturday's Steamboat Shootout finals, but the game will help the Sailors in the long run.
The Lancers had few weaknesses and forced the Sailors to physically -- and mentally -- boost their effort in a 71-54 Liberty win.
The Lancers pressed the entire game in a successful effort to dictate the tempo.
"That's our style. That's how we play," Liberty coach Jeff Masterson said. "It makes the tempo faster and forces the other team to rush its shots."
That's exactly what Steamboat did not want to do Saturday.
"We needed to keep the game in the 30s or 40s," Sailors coach Kelly Meek said. "We covered that late (Friday) and twice (Saturday). ... What I liked is that we played hard. We just did not play smart."
Liberty built an early 21-12 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Sailors crept back in during the second quarter off baskets from seniors Scott Peterson and Mitch Bryden, junior Cameron Petet and sophomore Aaron Calkins, who was named to the All-Tournament team.
Steamboat pulled to within 26-24 with 1 minute, 6 seconds remaining in the half, but the Sailors lost focus on offense. Liberty got consecutive steals from Carey Davis and Scott Sublousky to help the Lancers take a six-point lead into the locker room.
Liberty pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring Steamboat 23-12.
The Lancers defeated their two previous opponents by an average of 29 points, so the Sailors appeared to be their toughest competition during the three-day tournament.
"We were worried about Steamboat's shooters," Masterson said.
Calkins finished with 15 points, as did Peterson. Bryden added 12 on some great second-half drives, but Liberty had too much balance and speed for the young Sailors to overcome.
Spearheading Liberty's third-quarter surge was senior point guard Ben Feilmeier, one of five seniors the Lancers started Saturday. He led scorers with 17 points and also was named to the All-Tournament team.
"We have a great point guard," Masterson said. "He sometimes doesn't push it as much as we would like him to, so we have to remind him."
At times Saturday, the game was more track meet than basketball game, which did not play into Steamboat's favor. To the Sailors' credit, however, they were competitive and did a relatively good job handling the Lancers' pressure.
Meek put Steamboat's 2-3 start in perspective. The Sailors have faced D'Evelyn, Roaring Fork, Conifer, Montrose and Liberty in eight days.
"We've played two of the top (Class 4A) teams in the state in D'Evelyn and Liberty and the runner-up in 3A last year in Roaring Fork," he said. Those three games were Steamboat's losses.
The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Sailors, who travel to the three-day Flaming Gorge Tournament in Green River, Wyo. Steamboat will play Union High School out of Roosevelt, Utah, on Thursday. Steamboat will then face Kemmerer, Wyo., on Friday, and Sheridan, Wyo., on Saturday.
"We are catching three really solid programs, which is great," Meek said. "If we can grow, we will be that much tougher."
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org