Steamboat Springs’ Jake Miller, center, jumps for the ball while playing Eagle Valley on Saturday at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum. Eagle Valley won, 57-39.

Kristin Anderson / Vail Daily

Steamboat Springs’ Jake Miller, center, jumps for the ball while playing Eagle Valley on Saturday at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum. Eagle Valley won, 57-39.

Eagle Valley defeats Steamboat boys basketball, 57-39

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— The race for the Western Slope League boys basketball title is heating up.

Steamboat Springs High School made its statement with a 61-43 thumping of Glenwood Springs on Jan. 6. Palisade has thrown down markers with wins against Eagle Valley and Glenwood Springs in the past week.

And now the Eagle Valley Devils are in the ring with an emphatic 57-39 win against Steamboat on Saturday afternoon in Gypsum.

“This is huge, two in a row after a little slump,” said the Devils’ Sam Lounsberry, referring to a weekend sweep of Moffat County and the Sailors. “We went 2-4 in our last six games previous to this weekend. It was big.”

“Big win, massive win, so big,” added Eagle Valley coach Brent McConaghy.

Eagle Valley will savor this one — its biggest win in years, and certainly the biggest in McConaghy’s short tenure.

“I thought Eagle Valley played really well,” Sailors coach Luke DeWolfe said. “I thought their pressure definitely took us out of what we wanted to do, made us turn the ball over. In the end, that was probably the difference.”

Eagle Valley led, 27-19, at the half, but really put the clamps down defensively in the second half, holding Steamboat to just 10 points from the beginning of the third quarter to halfway through the fourth.

“We did a great job of getting the ball to the high post, and when we got the ball there, we had a lot of high-low action,” McConaghy said. “More importantly we had a lot of high skips to the back side for 3s. Once that started happening, they had to react to our athleticism.”

And that cracked the nut that is the usually impervious Sailors defense.

Lounsberry led the Devils with 16 while Tim Wells had 13, but the unsung hero of the game was junior Ryan Werner, who along with Cooper Senn helped deny the Sailors the paint.

Carter Kounovsky led the Sailors with 14 points.

“We need to learn how to play when we’re down and our backs are against the wall, how to thrive under adversity,” said DeWolfe, whose teams always seem to be in the mix of the Western Slope race. “If we can learn to come together as a team and play as a unit when we’re down by 8 to 10 points, then I think we’re good.”

The Sailors will have a rematch with the Devils on Feb. 4 in Steamboat.

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