Kelly Meek, the Steamboat Springs boys basketball coach famous for his meticulous scouting reports and schemes for the opposition, stood before his team with nothing going into Saturday's game.
Eagle Valley is new to the Western Slope League this year and has a new coach in Pat Gabriel, so Meek didn't have film or any idea what to expect. The only thing the Sailors had was a score from Friday's game -- Eagle Valley 59, Moffat County 46 -- but that caught everyone's eye.
"We were all surprised they beat them, especially by 13," junior Scott Peterson said.
With nearly every starter and key reserve sick, Steamboat gutted out two wins this weekend, the most recent a 59-41 victory against Eagle Valley on Saturday. But in the Devils, the Sailors may have met the group of athletic, quick and scrappy players who pose the biggest threat to their repeating as league champions this season.
"We faced two stud offensive rebounding teams this weekend," Meek said. "I really felt like our kids had a gut check."
Steamboat (11-2 overall, 5-0 in league play) defeated Battle Mountain by three Friday. Saturday's game against the Devils wasn't as close, but the Sailors played much better in their home gym than they did on the road Friday.
"We put up a thing on the board about being a true warrior, and told them that's what we're going to have to be," said Meek, who is also ill.
He's just thankful he doesn't have the no-practice, no-play policy for illness, otherwise Eagle Valley's varsity would have been facing a group of freshmen -- and Peterson.
Peterson has managed to stay healthy, and his reward was to contain Eagle Valley senior Cody Gerard, a 6-foot-5 player, who, much like Steamboat's Cameron Burney, can play inside and out.
Gerard scored 10. Senior Kevin Cruz led Eagle Valley with 13 points Friday.
"We had no scouting report on them, but we knew they would hit the offensive boards," Peterson said.
The two teams played fairly even through the first half. The Devils had the lead after one quarter, but Steamboat pulled ahead by nine at the end of the second. Burney, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, scored 12 points in the first 16 minutes.
Two quick fouls, including an offensive foul that Eagle Valley's Brian McDonough drew at the five-minute mark, put Burney on the bench for most of the third quarter. The Devils scored on their subsequent possession, but the Sailors, behind senior Patrick Ayres' six points in three minutes, extended their lead to 46-34 by the end of the third.
Eagle Valley never threatened in the fourth.
Ayres finished with 14 points and six rebounds. Peterson added 10 points.
The rematch between the two teams will be Feb. 19. In what may be the scheduling move of the year, the Feb. 19 game will be the final league game for Steamboat, but it remains to be seen whether league title implications will be on the line.
Steamboat's next game is at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Glenwood Springs in Glenwood.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org