This Steamboat Springs boys basketball team had it. The talent. The shooters. The heart.
But Saturday, D'Evelyn made baskets when it had to and got the calls it wanted -- and perhaps needed -- to prevail, 48-39, and advance to tonight's round of eight against Longmont.
The Sailors will travel through the mountain passes wanting to play Friday's Sweet 16 game over again. And this time, they would like senior Cameron Burney to play the final quarter.
Burney, who finished with eight points, fouled out with 6 minutes, 7 seconds left in Saturday's playoff contest. His second, fourth and fifth fouls were offensive fouls and questionable ones at that. D'Evelyn post player Andrew Hooper, who finished with 13, was called for one offensive foul late in the game.
"I felt they could bang inside, and we couldn't," Steamboat coach Kelly Meek said. "Had Cameron been allowed to play ..."
His voice trailed off.
Meek has been in the profession for more than 30 years, but the emotional investment he puts in each year -- and with each player -- makes each season-ending loss that much more painful.
D'Evelyn coach Troy Pachner said he was waiting for his team to pull away. He envisioned his team would dictate the tempo, and the Jaguars would run the Sailors off the Metro State College campus.
D'Evelyn went ahead by as much as 14 with 5:37 left in the third quarter before Meek called a timeout after two straight Sailors turnovers.
Steamboat responded with an 11-0 run, highlighted by a three-point play from Burney and a 3-pointer in transition from senior Tyler Fosdick.
"We realized we couldn't give up," said senior Pat Ayres, who finished with 13 points. "We had worked too hard."
Senior Dustin Moran made a lay-in in the opening seconds of the fourth to bring Steamboat to within three, 32-29.
Burney picked up his fourth foul soon after that. He got his fifth on the next trip down the floor. The D'Evelyn players walked toward their bench with smiles, and junior Spencer Gardner received a congratulatory remark from Pachner for drawing the foul on Burney.
Pachner wasn't shy about sharing his main game plan after the win.
"We went right at Cameron," he said. "Our kids are smart enough to recognize he is their primary post defender and best athlete. As soon as he got one foul, we were going right at him to try and get another."
With Burney on the bench, the Jaguars attacked the rim and pulled back by nine. Moran and Ayres scored two straight baskets for the Sailors to close to within five with 3:08 remaining.
After a series of D'Evelyn free throws, Ayres hit a 3-pointer -- Steamboat's second all night -- to close the Jaguars' lead to six with 38 seconds left in the game. The Sailors wouldn't get closer.
One look at the bracket and the potential matchups down the road left some wondering what might have been. D'Evelyn is easily the tallest team in the field and will present problems for Longmont tonight. Had the Sailors beaten the Jaguars, the remaining games would have been against teams the Sailors matched up much better against.
Instead, Steamboat was forced to try to shoot and pass around tall, lanky D'Evelyn players who seemed to be all arms and legs.
"When we are up on our toes, things go well for us," Pachner said. "But credit Steamboat. Those kids are well-coached, and they played hard."
Steamboat finishes the season 21-3, having won 18 straight games before Saturday's loss. En route to one of the state's longest winning streaks this year, the Sailors picked up their second-straight Western Slope League championship. This year, they went undefeated on their way to the crown.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org