Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Three years ago, I wrote about Steamboat Springs High School girls basketball coach John Ameen, the girls on his team and how they were headed in the right direction.
It took time, but there's no doubt the Sailors and their program have turned a page.
Sure, the team still sports a 5-10 overall record and has won just two of its seven Western Slope League games, but a close look at those seven WSL contests reveals just how far the program has come under Ameen.
The team has picked up league wins against Battle Mountain and Delta but lost to Eagle Valley, Palisade, Rifle, Glenwood Springs and Moffat County. In those five defeats, Steamboat has lost by an average of just 5.2 points per game. In four of those five games, Steamboat had a second-half lead.
Maybe the best indicator of Steamboat's ascension came from the team's most recent loss to Moffat County. Just a year ago, the Sailors were run out of Kelly Meek Gymnasium in a 78-24 loss to the Bulldogs. This year, Steamboat lost 55-48, and at one point in the second half held a 13-point lead.
Three years ago, the program's focus was on building fundamentals in practice. In some respects, it was if Ameen and the girls were starting from scratch.
Today, practice centers on learning to win and learning to not settle when they have a lead. Ameen is trying to instill a killer instinct into a team that until recently had no reason for one.
The Sailors' journey isn't complete. Losing creates a mindset and mental wall that is tough to get through. Winning, on the other hand, is all about confidence.
And that's the team's task for the second half of this season. If Steamboat plays to win instead of playing to not lose, the Sailors could be team no one wants to see as the postseason approaches.
That could mean a few more wins and a berth into the state playoffs. Not bad for a team that started from scratch a couple of years ago.