It was over in a flash.
The Steamboat Springs boys basketball had kept Rifle around for a half. But just as the Sailors have done throughout the season, they hit a stretch.
Steamboat broke open a three-point game with a 19-2 stretch to open the third quarter en route to a 74-50 win.
"I was just pleased with how we knuckled down in that second half," Steamboat coach Kelly Meek said. "We put the hammer down on them."
The win gives Steamboat a two-game lead in the Western Slope League with six games remaining. It also was Steamboat's 24th consecutive win in league play.
Although Steamboat opened the game up in the second half, the Bears gave the Sailors everything they could handle in a first half that saw four ties and six lead changes.
Rifle (9-7 overall, 6-2 in league play) held a slim 22-21 lead with 1 minute, 39 seconds left in the half before Steamboat's Aaron Calkins scored five consecutive points to give Steamboat a 27-24 lead heading into the break.
But then in the third quarter, Steamboat (14-2, 8-0) defense tightened and nothing seemed to fall for Rifle.
Steamboat scored the first eight points of the quarter, limited Rifle to one basket the first 3:24 of the quarter and held the Bears to 3-of-15 shooting in the quarter.
"In a game like that, every possession is magnified," Rifle coach Chris Lowther said. "As far as that goes, you've got to capitalize on the chances you get, and we didn't do that."
Steamboat continued its torrid pace in the fourth quarter, outscoring Rifle, 28-20.
"In the second half, we came out and played like we knew how at least," said Steamboat's Colby Kostur, who keyed the third quarter run with 11 points. "I think we're coming around. The first half we didn't play real well, but we did in the second. We're getting to the point where we need to be."
Michael Vandahl led Steamboat with 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Kostur chipped in 16 points and eight rebounds while Calkins scored 15 and grabbed nine rebounds.
Tyler Rust paced Rifle with 20 points, while Scott Rust chipped in eight.
Steamboat heads to Glenwood Springs for a 5:30 p.m. game today.
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