Broomfield Friday's playoff game against D'Evelyn was a character-defining moment for the Steamboat Springs boys basketball team.
Sure, the team may lost, 52-48, but the effort, resiliency and fourth quarter comeback showed Sailors head coach Kelly Meek all he needed to know about this team.
"Our kids have big hearts, and we don't quit," Meek said. "We have no quit in any possession. We may make mistakes but sure don't make that mistake of quitting."
The Sailors could have packed it in heading into the fourth quarter, but instead made it a game where nothing was decided until the final buzzer. Trailing by 11 points, at 42-31, to begin the last frame, Steamboat did what it does best.
The Sailors were patient on offense and made it a war for D'Evelyn to score.
"We haven't been down since early in the season," said senior Tanner Stillwell, who dislocated his thumb early in the fourth quarter but refused to come out of the game. "We fought hard and we decided to lay it all on the line"
The Sailors trimmed the Jaguars' lead to three at 48-45 with 2 minutes, 24 seconds to go in the game. Thirty seconds later Steamboat's Aaron Calkins tied it up at 48. D'Evelyn's James Rader put the Jaguars up 50-48 after he drove the baseline, made a layup and got fouled. Rader couldn't convert the free throw, but Steamboat couldn't convert on its next offensive possession and was forced to foul. The Jaguars' Andrew Hooper missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and the Sailors' Cameron Petet grabbed the rebound. After a Steamboat timeout, the Sailors had a chance to tie the game or go ahead with 26.4 seconds remaining.
Junior Aaron Calkins beat his man and took a shot with 7 seconds remaining that just rolled off the front end of the rim and into the hands of Hooper.
"I feel really bad for our kids," Meek said. "I feel like we outperformed them in my opinion : we just didn't get a lot of breaks."
For most of the first half, the two teams battled back and forth. The Jaguars jumped out to a 15-7 lead with 1:31 left in the first quarter. Steamboat answered right back when Stillwell hit a 3-pointer and Michael Vandahl made a layup to cut the lead to three at 15-12 heading into the second quarter.
Steamboat started to make a run in the second, thanks in large part to the 6-foot-9 Hooper picking up his second foul when Alex Wood drew a charge. Hooper didn't play the last 6:52 of the half and Steamboat took advantage.
After D'Evelyn hit a 3-pointer to push its lead to 17-12, Steamboat went on a 7-0 run to take its first and only lead of the game at 19-17. D'Evelyn scored the next four points and went into halftime with a 21-19 lead.
Unfortunately in the third quarter, Steamboat struggled to find a rhythm. After Colby Kostur scored for Steamboat to cut the D'Evelyn lead to 30-27 with 4:47 left in the quarter, the Jaguars used a 12-4 run to build their lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Calkins led Steamboat with 16 points. Vandahl scored 10 and Kostur added seven.
D'Evelyn coach Troy Pachner said coming into the game he knew Steamboat would be tough.
"We felt really fortunate just to keep it even or a couple up at half," he said. "But down the stretch, it was clutch baskets for us because Steamboat was matching it : I'm proud of our kids because it took everything we had to beat Steamboat" on Friday.
For Steamboat, it was the last game for Petet, Stillwell and Garrett Brew. Meek said those seniors, along with the rest of the Sailors, combined to give him one of the closest teams he's ever coached.
"It's their chemistry," Meek said. "I know coach (Bruce) Alston and coach (Jim) Bronner would say the same. The thing I'll remember the most is their chemistry and their ability to hang tough no matter what happened."