Sailors ready for key hoop match-ups

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— Kelly Meek's team is riding a six-game winning streak and is tied for the lead in the Western Slope League.

Still, Meek knows now is not the time for the Steamboat Springs Sailors to be complacent. In fact, Meek said games today and Saturday could prove to be the most important of the year.

Steamboat hosts Delta at 7:30 p.m. today and league co-leader Palisade at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Meek knows two wins would give the Sailors breathing room in the standings.

"Both these squads are senior loaded," Meek said. "They have some guys who can take the ball to the hole and who can shoot."

Palisade and Delta boast some of the better scorers in the Western Slope. For Delta (5-2, 2-1) 6-foot-5 inch Michael Bear presents matchup problems for opposing teams. Meek said Bear was difficult to defend last year and this year it appears no different as the senior forward is averaging better than 22 points per game.

"We have to have him marked in transition," Meek said. "Our defense is going to be crucial in that we can't be one-man oriented but we can't let him get off."

Against Palisade, Steamboat will see two players who Meek said "can flat out score."

Palisade's Mark Douglass and Chris Williams are combining to average more than 35 points per game.

While Meek said he is worried about stopping the scorers from Palisade and Delta, he said he has been pleased with the defensive improvement he has seen from the Sailors.

In the last two games - against Glenwood Springs and Moffat County - Steamboat gave up a combined 74 points.

"We've made solid improvement, especially in terms of the kids' mental approach. They come in with a great mental approach," Meek said. "They're confident in themselves and each other."

Unfortunately, the Sailors will be shorthanded for the rest of the season. Meek said in a game earlier in the week, junior Richie Keith tore his ACL.

"We just have to adjust," Meek said. "We're going to miss Richie because he provided such valuable depth."

On the girls side, Steamboat coach John Ameen doesn't sound like a guy whose team is winless.

Ameen said he thinks the Sailors have a good chance to get their first win of the season against Delta or Palisade - both teams who rely heavily on inside scoring.

"I am very confident that we can." Ameen said. "Just in looking at the score from some of these games and knowing these teams, I really think we can."

Ameen said the focus in practice has shifted from defense to offense. In their two previous games, the Sailors held Glenwood Springs and Moffat County - two of the higher scoring teams in the league - under their season scoring averages.

"It's the spurts against anyone that we've played that make me feel like we can win," Ameen said. "You see them doing stuff right and the skill growth. It's there; it just has to be pieced together."

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