The Steamboat Springs boys basketball team has the Western Slope League title wrapped up, but the Sailors can't afford to let up in this weekend's final games of the regular season.
A high postseason seed and a subsequent chance to host a first-round tournament are on the line. The Sailors know the only way to give themselves a better chance at both is to finish the regular season strong. Many members of this year's seeding committee likely haven't seen Steamboat in action for geographic reasons, meaning record and word-of-mouth will factor into the seeding process.
And Steamboat's opponents this weekend figure to give the Sailors (18-2 overall, 12-0 in league play) all they can handle.
Steamboat hosts Battle Mountain at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Steamboat Springs High School. It is the final regular-season home game for the Sailors, so parents and players will be recognized before the game.
The Sailors defeated the Huskies by three points Jan. 21 in Minturn.
"That was the closest game we've had in our league," Steamboat coach Kelly Meek said. "They have a multiplicity of guys that can shoot the ball and drive it."
The last time Steamboat faced Battle Mountain, however, a majority of the Sailors had missed practice time because of illness. The two teams will be more prepared Friday. Battle Mountain features a starting lineup that includes players at 6-foot-5, 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-4, which creates match-up problems for the shorter Sailors.
Eagle Valley, Steamboat's opponent at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Gypsum, poses another challenge.
"They are very athletic," Meek said. "They have big, long-rangy kids that can run."
The Sailors defeated the Devils, 59-41, on Jan. 22, using a three-minute stretch in the second half to pull away.
Although this weekend will be a difficult one for Steamboat to end on, the Sailors had little trouble dispatching of Palisade and Delta last weekend.
Steamboat beat Palisade, 55-38, on Friday and beat Delta, 75-49, on Saturday.
The Sailors led the Panthers 18-13 at the end of the first quarter Saturday before going on a 26-10 run in the second to put the game away.
Senior Cameron Burney had 19 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and six steals, despite limited minutes. Twelve players scored for the Sailors, and the starters didn't have to play much in the second half.
Senior Pat Ayres added 18 points, and senior Dustin Moran had 12 points, seven assists and four steals. Senior Patrick Weber had six rebounds. Junior Scott Peterson had six assists and two steals, and senior Tyler Fosdick had three assists and two steals.
"A lot of it was we trapped them and got a pick out of the trap," Meek said of the high number of steals. "We also passed the ball really well."
Steamboat's unselfishness and commitment to playing well in the paint and on the perimeter -- on both ends -- has driven the Sailors to a top-10 state ranking and a 15-game winning streak that began two months ago today. Steamboat would like nothing better than to make it 17 on Saturday.