The Flaming Gorge Classic Basketball tournament in Green River, Wyo., has been kind to the Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team.
Although the team has had success there in terms of wins - Steamboat is 5-2 during the past two years - the annual trip to Wyoming has served a bigger purpose.
Two years ago, Steamboat started its season 2-4 before winning 19 straight games. Last year, the Sailors lost the opening game in Wyoming before reeling off 18 straight wins.
"We can get away from our hometown and just go play basketball," said senior Alex Wood, who has seen the Wyoming tournament really bring together the Sailors as a team the past two years. "We play good teams, and it gives us a chance to grow as a team because we all stay together for three days in a row. Playing together and watching games together really brings us together."
Steamboat (3-2 overall) opens at 1:30 p.m. today against Riverton, Wyo. The Sailors then play at 11:45 a.m. Friday against Evanston, Wyo., and at 11:45 a.m. Saturday against Cheyenne East.
First-year Sailors coach Luke DeWolfe said the tournament comes at a perfect time for a Steamboat team that had its struggles in last weekend's Steamboat ShootOut.
DeWolfe said even though the team has had only three days of practice to prepare, he's seen a difference.
DeWolfe said the Sailors must be more efficient on offense, meaning fewer turnovers and higher-quality shots. The Sailors struggled with shooting the ball in the Steamboat ShootOut.
"I still think we're a good shooting team," DeWolfe said. "A lot of that can be contributed to inexperience, nervousness, a little bit of pressure and maybe the ShootOut itself. We need to get by that and have confidence. I mean, good shooters are confident shooters."
DeWolfe would like to see the team carry over its defensive intensity from the final game of the ShootOut. He said it was as good a defense as the Sailors have played thus far.
With the defense starting to take shape, DeWolfe is confident the Sailors will start to come around on the offensive end. With a limited amount of practice time for the starting five, DeWolfe hopes to start seeing more cohesion on the court.
The Wyoming tournament, he said, is the perfect place for that to happen.
"This is great, especially for us to get out of town," he said. "Basically, live and breathe basketball for three solid days and where we're all together and talk about basketball for three solid days. That's the idea. For as much of the good stuff that happens on the court, there is a lot that happens off the court at this tournament. It creates that teamism and chemistry."