Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs High School girls basketball team has talked about winning a Western Slope League championship this year. It appears more and more like a reasonable outcome, especially after the Sailors’ performance in his year’s Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out.
The Sailors, relegated to playing in the seventh- and eighth-place game at their home tournament in recent years, finished third this year after a 55-49 win against Green River, Wyo., on Saturday.
The Steamboat boys didn’t fare quite as well, falling 43-39 to Liberty on Saturday to finish fourth in the Shoot-Out.
“We are at about a six or seven right now,” Steamboat girls coach John Ameen said about this team. “We can play more consistently for longer stretches. We’re better than we’ve shown.”
For three quarters Saturday, the Sailors girls seemed to struggle. They trailed, 36-33, going into the final frame before the Sailors put together their best quarter of the season. The two teams went back and forth with Green River taking a 49-46 lead with 1 minute remaining.
But Steamboat’s defensive press created back-to-back turnovers. Megan Rae cut the Green River lead to 49-48 on an easy layup, and Hannah Moore was fouled and hit two free throws to put Steamboat on top, 50-49.
Rae and Moore went 3-for-4 from the line in the last 36 seconds to ensure the Steamboat win.
“That’s the best intensity we’ve played with,” said Moore, who finished with a career-high 30 points, 20 of which came in the first half. “That’s how it should be all the time.”
Steamboat, 4-1, now prepares for the Green River Tournament. There, the Sailors will see many of the top teams from Wyoming and likely their best competition of the young season.
Ameen said he’s been pleased with the progress of his team, but said there always is room for improvement.
“You got to hand it to the girls,” he said. “They put on the press in the last minute, and they responded. They got turnovers and hit free throws. There are some things we need to sharpen up on the offensive end mainly.
“But it’s been a while since a girls program has gone 2-1 in this (Shoot-Out). That’s a good win for us playing a team of that caliber.”
The Steamboat boys game was eerily similar to their game Friday night.
On Saturday, Steamboat took an 18-8 first-quarter lead against Liberty before hitting a lull toward the end of the first half.
Liberty cut the lead to 22-17 at halftime and tied it at 34 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We came out, especially right off the bat, and extended it a little bit on them,” Steamboat coach Luke DeWolfe said.
“Right before the half, we had a defensive lull. As soon as we did that, they hit some shots. They carried the momentum at halftime.”
But against Liberty, an athletic team that likes to get up and down the court, Steamboat was able to dictate the tempo and slow down the pace.
The Sailors were down one with less than a minute left and had the ball, but a turnover led to a three-point advantage for Liberty in the last 40 seconds.
Considering Steamboat was without two key cogs in its rotation — returning leading scorer Jack Spady and Connor Landusky sat out with injuries — DeWolfe said he’s happy with where his team is right now and even more excited for where he believes they can eventually go.
“I think the guys are responding well,” he said. “They’re getting used to what varsity basketball looks like at the 4A level. That’s what we want. That will continue into the weekend.”
The boys leave Thursday morning for the Green River Tournament.