Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs After the Steamboat Springs boys basketball team dismantled Rifle, 74-50, on Friday night, one of the game's referees succinctly summed up the state of the Sailors.
"Steamboat is scary good," the ref told me. "They're really, really good."
And this might be only the beginning.
Steamboat is a team built for the playoffs.
I'd venture to say that not a team in the state runs as many offensive sets as Steamboat does. They're a nightmare for opposing defenses, and, of course, nobody in the state scouts opponents quite like head coach Kelly Meek.
The team also has its limitations.
The Sailors are smaller than almost every team they play and aren't the most athletic group. Occasionally, they get transfixed on shooting 3s.
But when it comes time for the playoffs - seeding takes place Feb. 24 - Steamboat has a team primed to make a deep run.
Time will tell how far the Sailors go, but judging by the cast of players and coaches, the state Final Four is undoubtedly attainable.
Basketball becomes a whole different beast in the playoffs. Still, that's when Steamboat should play its best basketball.
The Sailors' offensive and defensive schemes are enough to give any team trouble. Despite having a distinct height disadvantage against every team they face, Steamboat's five-man, team-oriented defense gives opponents fits - regardless of what style the opponent likes to play.
Offensively, Steamboat's multiple sets and multiple threats are tough to guard.
Plus, there is the Meek factor. Nobody game-plans better. Nobody knows opponents better. Nobody gets his team more ready. Come playoff time, when opponents don't know Steamboat as well as teams from the Western Slope League know Steamboat, Meek's experience and advanced scouting reports give the Sailors a resounding edge.
Still, what makes this Steamboat team the most dangerous is its uncanny ability to refuse defeat.
The team has an aura around it. No matter the situation, it refuses to lose. Whether it happens in a two-minute stretch at the end of a game or like in the first six minutes of the third quarter Friday night, when Steamboat went on a 19-2 run. The Sailors are never out of a game. Ten-point deficits turn into ties, ties turn into 10-point leads.
So Steamboat's not just really good. This team is deep-run-in-the-playoffs good.