Steamboat Springs boys basketball coach Kelly Meek has been in the profession for more than 30 years, so he doesn't get nervous before games such as Saturday's league opener against rival Moffat County, but he still gets excited.
"I try to keep as even a keel as I can," Meek said. "If I don't, we aren't ready."
Steamboat didn't play its best game of the year Saturday, but it found a way to win, coming from behind to upend Moffat County, 38-29, in Steamboat Springs.
"It feels like when we're not playing good, we get this luck that walks through the door," senior Cameron Burney said.
Some call it luck. Others call it two minutes of better basketball. With two minutes, 13 seconds remaining in Saturday's game, the Sailors were clinging to a two-point lead when Burney hit a turnaround jumper from the low block.
Senior Tyler Fosdick stole the subsequent inbounds pass and dribbled to the far side of the court before the basketball made its way to Burney, streaking through the lane for an easy two.
On the Bulldogs' next possession, Sailors senior Dustin Morgan came up with a steal that turned into a three-point play when junior Scott Peterson made the bucket and the free throw after drawing a foul on junior Jarrod Holmlund.
What was a slim two-point lead expanded to a more comfortable 38-29 edge with 1:19 to go.
"We defended and rebounded really well down the stretch," Meek said. "(These games) could go either way on a dime."
Moffat County coach Mike LeWarne said Saturday's game was much like the first matchup between the rivals Dec. 18. The Sailors won that one, as well.
"It was pretty low scoring, pretty intense," LeWarne said. "Give credit to them."
The game was close throughout, with Steamboat holding a 12-10 lead after one quarter and Moffat County holding the halftime lead, 21-20. But the Sailors limited the Bulldogs to just eight points in the second half, including just three in the third quarter.
Steamboat, meanwhile, scored 18 in the second half, taking control late in the game. The Sailors rallied to take the lead, 27-24, on a 3-pointer from senior Collin Hare and closed out the quarter in resounding fashion on an alley-oop slam from Burney.
Burney politely declined to reveal the name of the play in case opponents find out.
But LeWarne said it's no secret that Steamboat is looking to use Burney inside. He scored only 12 points and collected seven rebounds Saturday, but Burney picked opportune times to score.
"He is a super athlete," LeWarne said.
Steamboat, meanwhile, essentially eliminated Moffat County's low-post game. Junior Kevin Loughran spent most of the game in foul trouble, and two Burney-blocked shots in the bleachers forced the Bulldogs into thinking twice about attacking the rim.
"Our defense was unbelievable," Burney said. "We sensed they weren't doing anything inside."
Moran chipped in with seven points. Fosdick scored six. Peterson had five assists. Junior Chance Buckner led Moffat County with nine points. Junior Derek Duran added seven.
Steamboat (7-2 overall, 1-0 in league) returns to the court at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Palisade in Steamboat.
Moffat County (4-3, 0-1) returns to action Tuesday against Fruita-Monument.