Steamboat’s Ashley Spitellie races down the court with the ball Friday as the Sailors girls basketball team practiced in Steamboat Springs.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat’s Ashley Spitellie races down the court with the ball Friday as the Sailors girls basketball team practiced in Steamboat Springs.

Steamboat girls basketball team eyes top-tier competition

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— If you’re to believe Steamboat Springs High School girls basketball coach John Ameen, the program has arrived. 

The fifth-year Sailors coach is confident that despite losing most of his top scorers from a season ago, his girls will compete for a Western Slope League title this winter. 

In fact, Ameen thinks the program has reached a place where competing for the title should be a yearly occurrence. 

“I think so. I really do,” Ameen said last week. “There is a lot of different dynamics that go with that, but I think we’re at that point.” 

There is reason to believe Ameen. He has resurrected the program in the past five years, including leading the Sailors to the playoffs two seasons ago. 

The team went 11-11 last season but has lost its top two scorers — Tara Spitellie and Hannah Moore.

“We have the most athletic team I’ve had,” he said. “I’ve always had individuals that are great athletes. But as a collective group they’re fast, quick to the ball and aggressive. That’s going to help us tremendously. It’s going to be exciting for us this year as far as tempo.”

That’s going to have to be the way the Sailors play. Without a true scorer returning, or at least not a defined one right now, Ameen is banking on an aggressive defense and up-tempo offense to hide any offensive deficiencies. 

“I think we’ll push a lot of teams to play a lot faster,” said Sydney Bauknecht, who returns as a starter along with Eryn Rinck. “We’ll be changing defenses a lot. It’s going to make them rush and change their game.”

In addition to Bauknecht and Rinck, Alex Feeley and Meghan Stabile each saw plenty of action last season. 

Add in McKenzie Repollo at guard and a deep but inexperienced group of forwards in Nikki Fry, Maggie Crouch and Jessie Wallace, and the Sailors have athletic pieces on the court. 

“We’ll be quicker than any team in the league,” Rinck said. “I feel with the speed we have, we’ll be faster. I think we’ll be able to run.”

Ameen said he expects Moffat County and Delta to be the class of the league, with Steamboat and Glenwood Springs slotting in just below. 

He said the goal is to finish in that upper tier of the league.

“We’re presenting a whole new game to our league,” he said. “I want to be in that top tier conversation again. I want to be in the conversation for a league title. That’s always the expectation.”

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