Photo by Brian Ray
Steamboat's Aaron Calkins, center, tries to break through a pair of Glenwood Springs defenders on his way to the basket during a game in Steamboat Springs on Saturday evening. The Sailors defeated the Demons, 55-51.
Steamboat Springs As the minutes shrunk and the score tightened, there wasn't a raised pulse in the Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team's huddle.
There may have been nerves, but as Steamboat coach Kelly Meek said, this team just refuses to lose.
Playing their third game in five days, the Sailors showed why they're considered one of the top teams in the state - and why Meek calls this a special group - in winning their 19th consecutive Western Slope League game with a 55-51 victory against Glenwood Springs.
"We've got that great 'refuse to lose' attitude," said Meek, whose team got the win despite committing an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers. "The five guys on the floor, the staff - I mean you can just feel it."
The game pitting the top two teams from the league certainly lived up to its billing.
Neither team led by more than five points until the end of the game, when it became a free throw shooting contest and Steamboat went 6-of-8 from the line in the final minute. There were five tied scores and 13 lead changes.
"We were slightly drained, but when it gets to that timeframe, you'd think we were as fresh as can be," Meek said. "I feel it's that mental toughness."
Although neither team could separate from the other in the first three quarters, Steamboat got just what it needed in the fourth.
After the Sailors took a 42-41 lead with 4 minutes, 52 seconds left in the game, Steamboat senior Ryan Shaw drew a charge on Glenwood's ensuing offensive possession.
Steamboat's Aaron Calkins then hit a clutch 3-pointer, extending the Sailors lead to 45-41.
"That was huge," Meek said. "That's a five-point, maybe six-point swing."
The two teams traded baskets, before Steamboat went 6-of-6 at the line on three straight possessions to put the game out of reach.
"We buckled down in the end, rebounded better and played better defense," Steamboat point guard Michael Vandahl said.
For Glenwood - a young team with only two seniors - the game came down to a few mishaps at inopportune times.
The Demons only had five turnovers entering the fourth quarter, but turned the ball over five times in the final frame.
"They're a tough team and a very good team," Glenwood coach Greg Hire said of Steamboat. "They won league last year and returned a lot of players. Coach Meek always puts together a good and disciplined team."
Vandahl led Steamboat with 17 points. Calkins scored 14 and Alex Wood added 10.
Glenwood's Connor Riley scored 21 of his team-leading 25 points in the second half. Kevin Screen chipped in nine points and Dakota Stonehouse added eight.
Steamboat continues play on Friday at Delta and Saturday at Palisade.