Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team won a tournament on its home court Saturday night, as Michael Vandahl led the Sailors to a convincing championship win against talented rival D'Evelyn.
And in this young season, the scary thing is that the team is only going to get better.
The Sailors showed increasing poise and skill as each game progressed in the Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out, and saved their best for last by defeating D'Evelyn, 61-50.
Even with returning all-state guards Vandahl and Aaron Calkins battling various ailments, and starter Alex Wood suffering an ankle injury, Steamboat put together its most balanced - and dominating - performance of the tournament.
The Sailors held the Jaguars to 19-of-62 from the field, converted 20-of-50 themselves and made more than twice as many free throws (15) than the Jaguars shot (7).
"We can still improve. We just flat can," said Steamboat coach
Kelly Meek, noting this was the deepest Shoot-Out field in the tournament's nine-year history. "There's no doubt about it. But we can't sit on this and say, 'Yeah, we've arrived.' The last thing we want is anyone patting themselves on the back."
But with the way Steamboat played against D'Evelyn - a school that Steamboat seniors had never defeated until Saturday - the Sailors may certainly have raised some eyebrows around the state.
Led by Vandahl, Calkins and Colby Kostur, Steamboat took a 3-0 lead two minutes into the game and never looked back.
The Sailors threatened to blow the game open in the first quarter, starting on an 11-2 run before the Jaguars started to find the net from long range.
D'Evelyn finished the quarter on an 11-4 run, thanks to three 3-pointers, and headed into the second quarter down only 15-13.
But after Steamboat stretched its lead to 28-22 at halftime, Vandahl - named the tournament's most valuable player - took over the game.
The senior guard scored 11 of his game-high 18 points in the quarter, attacking the basket and getting to the rim at will.
Behind Vandahl, Kostur and Nelson Brassell - who filled in for Wood when the junior went out - Steamboat established a 51-37 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"It's elation," said Brassell, who missed last year after breaking his foot. "This is the thing I love to do. (Saturday) was the monkey off the back. We wanted it so bad."
In the fourth quarter, the only thing left to do was decide which player - Vandahl or Kostur - should get the MVP award.
While the deserving Vandahl won it, Kostur certainly made the decision tough.
Throughout the tournament, the senior - who is listed at 6-foot-2 - played against the other teams' best post player.
That usually meant giving up as many as six inches in height.
"I just want to let them know that I'm not going to sit back; I'm going to initiate contact," said Kostur, who didn't let his defensive duties limit his offensive capabilities and averaged 18 points a game during the tournament. "I do what coach (Meek) has taught us. This is a huge step for us, and we can build off of this."
Building and moving forward will start Thursday in Wyoming at the Flaming Gorge Tournament, where the Sailors will see competition likely as tough as it saw in this year's Shoot-Out.
"We just played confident," Vandahl said. "We just wanted it and came out and played."
Vandahl led the Sailors with his 18 points. Kostur scored 16 and grabbed eight rebounds, while Calkins chipped in 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists.