Sailors girls look to build on recent progress

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Steamboat Springs girls basketball, 2008-09

— Steamboat Springs High School junior Gracie Stockdale doesn't have the best memories from past Steamboat ShootOut basketball tournaments.

She has played in the tournament that brings some of the top teams from around the state two years in a row, and she wound up on the losing side more often than not.

But, as Stockdale and the rest of the Sailors prepare to open at 8 p.m. today against Summit, Stockdale said there's new reason for optimism in the Sailors locker room.

"Honestly, we are sick of losing and sick of having this reputation," said Stockdale, who helped Steamboat get off to a 2-0 start last weekend at the Brenda Patch Tournament in Carbondale. "We're ready to prove we're here to win. It's not a joke."

The Sailors certainly will see better competition this week. The tournament, which starts today and runs through Saturday, brings in some top-caliber teams.

Sailors coach John Am-een said he looks at Conifer, Montrose and D'Evelyn as the favorites.

Still, Ameen said, he likes the feel of his team.

"There is a different feeling," Ameen said. "We talked about that confidence, and there is a feeling of confidence after those two wins. When you open something you're hosting, you want to play well. We want to play like last weekend, but better. If we play with the same style, but just better, I think we're going to like the result."

In last weekend's games against Roaring Fork and Basalt, Steamboat used its defense to snag two wins. In addition to great ball pressure, Ameen said the Sailors press had a lot to do with the success.

He said Steamboat will have to continue that style of play today against Summit. The Summit Tigers are a team that mix up their defense and pound the ball inside on offense.

If there is one advantage Steamboat might have against the rest of the bracket, it's the Sailors' experience in their home tournament.

"So many of us are returning," Stockdale said. "For a lot of us, this is our third time on the varsity, and I think we know what to expect and know how hard we have to work. I think we're going to come into it relatively strong. I'm really excited, because we know what we can do now."

Steamboat will play either D'Evelyn - ranked eighth in Class 4A - or Rock Canyon on Friday.

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