Steamboat Springs junior Carter Kounovsky bulls his way through the lane Friday against Rifle. The game was a defensive battle, and the Sailors came out on top, 35-33.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Springs junior Carter Kounovsky bulls his way through the lane Friday against Rifle. The game was a defensive battle, and the Sailors came out on top, 35-33.

Sailors boys knock out Bears in hoops slugfest

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Steamboat boys basketball vs. Rifle

Led by Brody King's 10 points, the Sailors boys basketball team played tough defense against a physical Rifle team. Steamboat won, 35-33.

Led by Brody King's 10 points, the Sailors boys basketball team played tough defense against a physical Rifle team. Steamboat won, 35-33.

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Rifle's Clinton Farr is fouled by Steamboat's Mitch McCannon on Friday. Steamboat won the game, 35-33.

— The roars said it best. Sure, the crowd that packed into Kelly Meek Gymnasium on Friday night to see the Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team cheered when the appropriate team scored, when a big shot fell in from deep and when a player glided in for a layup.

On Friday night, they also roared for defense — big swats from a pair of towering centers eliciting thunderous applause, steals and tight coverage drawing raves.

But Friday’s game wasn’t for SportsCenter. Both teams struggled in the face of withering defensive pressure, but it was Steamboat that managed to land the final and crucial blows. With a solid fourth quarter, the Sailors knocked off Rifle, 35-33.

“That was a defensive struggle, and it’s more physical than we’ve played this year,” Steamboat coach Luke DeWolfe said. “In a lot of ways, it was a boxing match, and we were standing at the end. We got the shots when we needed them, the stops when we needed them and that gave us the opportunity to win.”

Steamboat’s go-ahead surges late in the game did well to sum up the sluggish pace of the game’s offenses. Basically, the Sailors got what they needed but only when they had to have it.

Rifle rallied to tie the score late in the third quarter at 21, but almost as if it had been waiting for the challenge, Steamboat immediately got hot. Junior Zach Dunklin drained a 3-point shot on the ensuing possession, then Matt Lanning hit a shot for a five-point lead.

When Rifle tied the game again, this time at 28 thanks to a Jake Statler trey, Steamboat’s Garrett Bye took advantage of a foul, sinking a pair of free throws. Lanning again connected for a key bucket, this time rising up for a jumper in the lane, and junior Carter Kounovsky hit two of four free throws for the final padding.

Streaky offense and free throws aren’t exactly a thing of beauty, but it was enough for Steamboat.

“They were tough playing that zone, but we knocked down some shots at the end,” Kounovsky said.

Steamboat was led by Brodie King, who had all 10 of his points in the second quarter. Kounovsky had nine, and Bye scored seven, five from the free-throw line.

Trenton Brown had 10 for Rifle, and Tanner Quick, the center who proved the keystone of the Bears’ defense in the paint, had seven.

Steamboat returns to the court Saturday against Glenwood Springs.

“It’s going to be the same kind of game,” Kounovsky said. “It’s going to be scrappy, tough game.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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