One year after serving as a back-up point guard, junior Missy Chotvacs is in control of the Steamboat Springs girls basketball team.
Asked to start the season and lead the Sailors, despite limited varsity experience, Chotvacs has settled in -- offensively and defensively -- and Steamboat is reaping the rewards, as the Sailors stayed in position for a top three Western Slope League finish with a 51-33 win against Glenwood Springs on Friday.
"I feel like more of a leader," Chotvacs said.
As the only returning starter, senior Kayla Kostur was expected to play a prominent role, and she has been dominant on both ends of the floor, averaging a double double this year. On Friday, she finished with a game-high 25 points, including 21 in the second half to enable Steamboat to pull away late in the third quarter.
But there was some uncertainty about how the Sailors' guards would respond because the inside rarely opens up unless players are hitting outside shots and making good interior passes.
All are beginning to come together for the Sailors, who beat Glenwood Springs by just nine points last weekend. On Friday, the Sailors won by 18.
"That shows in my mind how far this team has come in such a short period of time and what they are capable of," Steamboat coach Ashley Berggren said.
It was Steamboat's defense, however, that helped the Sailors pull out to as much as an 11-point lead in the first half of Friday's game. The Devils didn't score until junior Emily Hauptli scored two of her team-high 18 points with 1 minute, 25 seconds left in the first quarter. Glenwood scored just 10 first-half points, as it struggled to make outside shots and couldn't get much going inside with starter Sam Ciani in foul trouble.
But Glenwood came out in the third much sharper on offense and closed to within 30-23 before Chotvacs made one free throw and converted a three-point play in the final 1:20 to push the Sailors back ahead by 11.
Four straight turnovers from Steamboat between the 5:37 and 3:26 marks gave the Devils a chance to chip into the lead, but they could not score. Kostur converted a three-point play with 3:25 left in the game, and the Sailors never looked back.
The win moved Steamboat to 7-10 overall and 5-4 in league play. Glenwood dropped to 7-8 overall and 3-6 in league play.
Steamboat will have to regroup quickly because Rifle comes to town for a 7:30 p.m. game today. Rifle defeated Steamboat by 18 points Jan. 19.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org