Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs boys basketball coach Kelly Meek saw the overconfidence in his players' eyes before Saturday's game started.
And he isn't sure why.
"We don't have the squad that can go out laissez-faire against an aggressive team like Palisade," Meek said. "We can only be good if five guys are playing hard together."
The Sailors got that effort and intensity for stretches of the second half. Unfortunately for the home team, they had fallen behind by as many as 19 points -- in the first quarter -- en route to the 61-53 loss.
The Bulldogs built a 17-2 lead four minutes into what coach Keenon Clement said was "by far" their best first quarter of the season. Palisade did not play like a team disappointed in a two-point loss to Moffat County on Friday night, but Steamboat played like a team overconfident after beating Delta, 55-36, on Friday.
"The kids were fired up," Clement said. "Steamboat will always get the best from our players and the best from me."
The Sailors have dominated most Western Slope League opponents during Meek's three-decade tenure. Although this year's team is relatively young, this year's players have inherited a target.
The Bulldogs jumped in passing lanes, attacked the rim and made open perimeter shots to pull out to an early lead. Meek was forced to burn timeouts Steamboat could have used later on after it impressively closed to within seven points with 5 minutes, 15 seconds left in the game.
Senior Scott Peterson's 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter cut Palisade's lead into single digits, but it was as close as the Sailors would get.
Clement did not know the last time Palisade won in Steamboat. Meek remembers a Steamboat team overcoming an 11-point deficit in 46 seconds to win, but the Bulldogs made 10-of-12 free throws in the final minute to prevent any comeback.
"We told them they had their run," Clement said. "We have to go out and get to the free throw line. That's how you kill runs."
Palisade got 24 points from junior Janis Zeibots and 15 from Cory Swetnam. Peterson led the Sailors with 18, and senior Mitch Bryden scored 16.
Steamboat is off until 7:30 p.m. Friday against rival Moffat County in Craig.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org