Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs Sailors didn't get an easy draw in the Flaming Gorge Classic in Green River, Wyo. After an emotional Friday night win against the host team, the boys basketball team returned to its hotel after midnight, knowing it would have to be back on the floor early Saturday morning to face Rock Springs.
Steamboat coach Kelly Meek said his athletes took the harsh scheduling as a direct challenge to their mental toughness.
"We said to ourselves that we wanted the toughest schedule and that we'd build from it," Meek said.
The Sailors rose to the occasion and beat Rock Springs, 76-63, to win their four-team tournament championship pool.
Meek said his team ratcheted down its defense to hold Rock Springs' Craig Wilk, a player he called the best Steamboat has seen all year, to a mere 26 points.
Steamboat's starters came out on fire, jumping to a 24-7 first-half lead. The Sailors continued the well-rounded offense into the second quarter. Michael Vandahl led Steamboat with 24 points, followed by Cameron Petet (18), Aaron Calkins (17), Colby Kostur (10) and Tanner Stillwell (7).
In the second half, Meek continued to mix the defensive sets to throw off the Rock Springs offense, holding Wilk to a pair of free throws in the fourth quarter.
"On defense and in rebounding, we're well ahead of where we were," Meek said.
Calkins grabbed 10 of the team's rebounds, and was helped with another eight from Petet and seven from Kostur.
The Sailors also nailed their shots outside the arc, hitting nine 3-pointers.
Another facet Meek saw drastic improvement in during the weekend was his team's ability to beat the press.
"We faced some strong and extremely quick presses yesterday and today," Meek said, noting the Sailors' minimal turnovers against Green River and Rock Springs.
"Our kids made a commitment to becoming five guys working together on the same team," Meek said. "We played some coarse teams up here. I just want to use the momentum to carry into league play."
Steamboat plays Rifle at home at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 5.