Experience to improve Steamboat in league

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With the Western Slope Lea--gue season set to begin after the holiday break, the Steam--boat Springs boys basketball team will try to make a run at its third consecutive league crown.

The Sailors wrapped up a string of eight games in 15 days and finished 4-4 overall. Although the record may not impress, the teams they faced will help them in league play.

"We caught a better variety than we have caught in a long time," Steamboat coach Kelly Meek said. "We usually have seven games in that streak; plus we caught teams we haven't seen much. We have a solid eight guys now."

Steamboat lost both games in the Roaring Fork Tournament before finishing second in the Steamboat Shootout. Most recently, the Sailors placed second at the Flaming Gorge Tournament in Green River, Wyo., going 2-1 at the tough tournament.

Steamboat lost to defending champion Union, Utah, 63-40, on Dec. 15. Union started all seniors and dominated the young Sailors.

"We had a really nice first quarter, but they wore us down and absolutely killed us on the boards," Meek said. "Our leading rebounder had four. You can see what happened to us. This team was highly active, very physical. It showed us what we needed to improve on."

Meek said the team had a long meeting after the loss, and the coaching staff challenged the boys to get tougher physically and mentally on the court. Most teams Steamboat faces the rest of the season will have more height and more experience.

The Sailors beat Kemmerer, Wyo., 39-34, on Dec. 16. Kem--merer featured a 7-foot player, and senior Scott Peterson was assigned to contain him.

"Scott did a great job," Meek said. "He hurt us, but we kept him under control. In the fourth quarter, he did not score. A lot of kids were doing a great job helping Scott out."

Senior Mitch Bryden and sophomore Michael Vandahl each finished with 11 points. Bryden had nine rebounds, and four other Sailors had four rebounds each.

"Each time we had a game with a difficulty, the kids responded with the thing we challenged them about," Meek said. "I know the top eight got together and discussed what we challenged them with. We have had great practices this week."

Steamboat wrapped up the Flaming Gorge Tournament with an impressive 64-49 victory against Sheridan, Wyo., on Saturday.

"We were never in the lead until the fourth quarter," Meek said. "We outscored them 20-7. We hadn't shot a free throw until the fourth quarter and went 11-for-13."

Sophomore Aaron Calkins finished with 17 points. Bryden had 15, and Peterson had 12.

"We were really spread well," Meek said. "Having those three guys in double figures was something different."

Steamboat resumes its season with road games at Delta and Palisade on Jan. 6 and 7, respectively. They will be the first league games of the season for the Sailors.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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