Boys open up league play with Rifle team

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— The Steamboat Springs boys basketball team will experience something different when they open league play against Rifle tonight in Kelly Meek Gymnasium - a team they match up well against.

After playing three preseason tournaments in which the Sailors were outsized in almost every game, Steamboat will play a quick, guard-oriented Rifle team very similar to its own.

"In a lot of ways, we play a lot alike," Steamboat Springs coach Kelly Meek said. "It'll be the first time we've seen a team that mirrors us in terms of size."

Despite often giving up more than six inches to opposing players, Steamboat comes out of the holiday break playing its best basketball of the season.

After struggling to find an early rhythm in two of the tournaments, the Sailors played sound defense and unselfish offense in winning their pool at a tournament in Wyoming.

Meek said after struggling through the first practice back from break Tuesday, the Sailors put together "a really solid" practice Wednesday.

"I was pleased with their mental and physical shape," Meek said. "(Wednesday) our communication was really good. Our defensive communication was outstanding."

Meek said the Sailors' defensive pressure will have to be on display against a Rifle team that hinges on guard play and balanced scoring.

The Bears (3-4) have four players averaging more than eight points a game, including brothers Tyler Rust (18 points a game) and Scott Rust (11 points).

"I think it's a real good matchup for us," Meek said. "We've had some really good games in the past, and we each know each other well."

Meek said his main concern is containing the Bears' versatility. He said that while Rifle can put three players on the floor that "can stick it from the outside," the Bears also can penetrate to open up easy post shots.

"I think you'll see two teams that defend well," Meek said. "I just think it'll be two well-balanced attacks that can hit you from the inside or the outside."

For the Sailors, Meek said he's been pleased with the scoring contributions from every player. He said defenses can't focus on just one Sailor, and the team is buying into his playing-in-the-moment philosophy.

"I want them focused on the possession at hand," he said. "That takes away a worry or concern and keeps them right in that moment : early in the season we weren't there yet, and that created that uncertainty.

"I don't feel that now."

- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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