Steamboat Springs You have to follow the rules to win the game.
Steamboat head coach Kelly Meek made that point at halftime to the Sailors after Palisade had rallied to a six-point lead at intermission of Saturday's Western Slope League game.
"We have a set of defensive rules for every one of their personnel that we knew well from the past," Meek said. "But, we had some that broke the rules time and time again. We addressed that in the first half because it wasn't catching on very well. Then, we addressed that really well at halftime."
After scoring a meager 20 points in the opening two quarters and looking at a 26-20 deficit, Meek's message to the team sunk in.
Outscoring their opponents, 44-28, in the second half, Steamboat maintained its undefeated (5-0 league, 11-2 overall) record on an easier-than-it-looked 64-54 win.
Michael Vandahl's tiebreaking 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2.9 seconds left in the third quarter gave Steamboat the lead for the fourth time in the contest.
It was the last time the Sailors trailed.
Vandahl scored 15 of his game-high 22 points in the second half.
Offensively, he got help from teammate Aaron Calkins, who pushed in 13 of 22 in the final eight minutes.
Leading 42-39 coming out of the quarter break, Vandahl and Calkins continued applying the offensive pressure on Palisade's sagging defense with eight quick points in just more than two minutes.
Each hit a pair of baskets in a run where Steamboat's slim 3-point lead suddenly ballooned to 50-41 when the Bulldogs couldn't find the net.
"We knew they were going to come at us. And I'm not going to slight Steamboat at all. But, during that stretch, we were still getting good looks at the rim," Palisade coach Keenan Clement said. "We didn't convert on the things we needed to do. It's frustrating. But, it's something we can improve on."
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs shooting didn't improve much as the second half unfolded.
While Calkins and Vandahl were romping their way to easy buckets, Palisade's only response was a lay-up by Jose Quintana in the middle of the run. In that stretch, the Bulldogs got just two shots off against Steamboat's defense.
"Our kids came out and took away and individually tried to take away strengths of their personnel," Meek said.
Vandahl's third 3-pointer, with 2:58 left in the game, raised Steamboat's lead to 58-47. It was their biggest lead of the night.
"(Winning this game) was huge for us," Meek said. "Four of our first five league games were on the road. To come away with this was good."