Win No. 499 wasn't pretty, but many of Kelly Meek's victories through the years haven't been perfect.
But a strong second half propelled the Steamboat Springs boys basketball team to a 54-35 win against Palisade on Friday, setting up Meek's bid to win his 500th career game today against Delta.
Tip-off between the Sailors and Panthers is at 6 p.m. at Steamboat Springs High School.
In honor of Meek's contribution to sports and his approaching a career milestone, Gov. Bill Owens issued a proclamation calling for today to be Kelly Meek Day in Colorado.
Meek was honored, but he will spend today preparing for Delta, as the Sailors (8-2 overall) try to stay unbeaten in Western Slope League play.
Senior Henry Howard postponed surgery on his shredded knee to be a part of this season. There were questions as to whether he would play this year. On Friday, he scored two points, grabbed one rebound and drew a charge. He, his teammates and the coaching staff were thrilled for Howard, who wears a heavy brace to stabilize the knee.
"It's really been day to day," Howard said. "I'm a little slower, and I can't jump as high, but I make up for it in my mind. This is what I've put my heart into for four years. I love being part of this team. They've been real supportive, especially coach Meek. It's so exciting to be a part of this."
Steamboat jumped out to an early 6-0 lead and never trailed Friday. The Sailors led 14-7 after one quarter and built a 26-17 lead by halftime, though it could have been greater. Meek went deep into his bench early on, substituting liberally for much of the first half.
"I want to give these kids some playing time," he said. "I broke our rhythm, especially our offensive rhythm."
Steamboat outscored Palisade, 28-18, in the second half, pulling away in the third quarter. The Sailors went on a 13-5 run in a six-minute span, behind six points from senior Patrick Ayres.
Ayres led all scorers with 19 points. Senior Cameron Burney scored 11 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Steamboat.
Sophomore Mark Douglas led the Bulldogs with 10 points. Junior Cory Swetnam added nine as Palisade was held to less than 10 points in three of the four quarters. Steamboat did a much better job defensively in the second half and attacked the rim more frequently, as well.
"The kids listened at halftime," Meek said. "We got married to the 3-point line in the first half."