Rebounding, tempo control key for Sailors

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D'Evelyn boys basketball coach Troy Pachner has thought about the repeat.

Last season, the Jaguars won the Class 3A state championship. D'Evelyn moved to 4A this season and is in the running to win that class, as well.

But Pachner admits the Jaguars -- and every team -- still have a long way to go until the March 12 final, and D'Evelyn will have everything it can handle with Steamboat Springs tonight.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. at Metro State College in Denver.

"It's a good squad and obviously well coached," Pachner said about the Sailors. "You're immediately impressed with Cameron (Burney). He's one of the top two purest athletes in 4A. You notice the disciplined nature. I watch the coach and the interaction with the kids. They play incredibly hard. You are impressed with their ability to shoot from the perimeter. They aren't a one-man show."

But neither is D'Evelyn.

What stands out most about the Jaguars is how much they stand above their opposition. No player who receives significant minutes is shorter than 6 feet tall. Their leading scorer is 6-foot-2 guard Joel Anderson. The leading rebounder is 6-foot-9 post Andrew Hooper, and their top three-point shooter is 6-foot-5 wing Spencer Gardner.

Anderson and Gardner were major contributors in last year's championship run.

Burney, at 6-foot-5, is Steamboat's tallest player.

"They have great size, and with that size, they have good quickness," Steamboat coach Kelly Meek said. "They are extremely explosive."

The Sailors and Jaguars already met this season, and the Jaguars won by 17. It was Steamboat's first game of the year, and the Sailors are playing at a much higher level now. D'Evelyn is playing with an equal level of confidence, however, making the matchup even more intriguing.

The winner advances to face either Centaurus or Longmont at 8 p.m. Saturday at Metro State in the round of eight.

Defensive rebounding and tempo control will determine Steamboat's fate. If the Sailors can't keep the Jaguars off the glass and prevent the quick outlet down the court, Steamboat will be gassed trying to run with D'Evelyn.

The Jaguars have 209 more rebounds than their opponents, a number that has Meek's attention. Steamboat won't match up as far as height, but that has been the case all season, and it hasn't mattered much for the Sailors, who have won 18 straight.

Saturday, Steamboat watched Broomfield try to run with D'Evelyn to no avail. Saturday, D'Evelyn watched Ranum try to beat Steamboat with one player and fail. Tonight, the teams meet again for the right to move on.

"With Coach Meek's experience, I'm sure he'll be able to do things having seen us," Pachner said. "We are still the same teams from the beginning of the season. We've evolved, but we are the same teams."

The most difficult aspect of the new format is the possibility of seeing three teams in two days, Pachner said. Both coaches are preparing for each other tonight but knowing they will face one of two more teams Saturday night.

"The challenge for us and for Coach Meek is you really have to prepare for three teams," Pachner said.

Of course, he added, the staff has said nothing about Saturday night because Saturday doesn't mean anything without a win tonight. The same goes for the Sailors, who will be a road team, despite a higher seed. D'Evelyn is in Lakewood.

"I have a lot of people saying they are coming down (from Steamboat)," Meek said. "I feel real good about where we've come down the stretch of the season."

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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