Battle Mountain's Jimmy O'Rourke and Alex Banegas defend Steamboat's Brandon Miller as he cuts through the lane Friday. The Huskies beat Steamboat, 57-56, when O'Rourke tipped in a buzzer-beating basket.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Battle Mountain's Jimmy O'Rourke and Alex Banegas defend Steamboat's Brandon Miller as he cuts through the lane Friday. The Huskies beat Steamboat, 57-56, when O'Rourke tipped in a buzzer-beating basket.

Battle Mountain tips over Steamboat boys hoops in crucial game

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— Battle Mountain High School’s Jimmy O’Rourke paused to catch his breath. His teammates didn’t stop congratulating him.

“I just went up and tipped it in,” he said while grinning Friday night.

It sounds easy enough, but his simple tap resounded like a cannon, stunning the Steamboat Springs High School basketball team at the buzzer, 57-56, and delivering a major setback to the Sailors’ postseason plans.

O’Rourke won a battle on the block, leaped and tapped in a Joe LyBarger miss as time expired, handing his team the game.

The loss rocked Steamboat’s plans for the next phase of the season. A win would have locked the Sailors into the district playoffs no matter the outcome of a challenging game Saturday at Eagle Valley.

Now, the Sailors, 10-8, aren’t promised a spot even with a win.

“Now, our backs are definitely against the wall,” Steamboat coach Luke DeWolfe said. “If we don’t get that win, we’ll probably be playing a pigtail game here Tuesday to get into the district tournament.

“This definitely hurts. It’s one we really wanted.”

The frustrating part for the Sailors — and, of course, the gratifying part for the Huskies — was that Steamboat led almost wire to wire but couldn’t hang on to a lead. Battle Mountain managed two one-point leads in the second quarter, none of which lasted more than a couple of possessions.

The Sailors, meanwhile, closed the first half in style, with Garrett Bye scoring and drawing a foul as time expired to establish a 33-30 lead.

Steamboat’s lead swelled eight points in the third quarter, but the Huskies, 8-10, always found a way to answer.

They cut it to two points before Bye helped spark another Steamboat surge with a powerful dunk on a sweet assist from Mitch McCannon. The Sailors got up by five that time, but it was one point again midway through the fourth quarter when Amadou Dath scored and sank a free throw.

Steamboat got yet another considerable edge when Carter Kounovsky drained a 3-point shot with 1 minute, 39 seconds remaining for a 54-50 lead.

LyBarger answered with a trey for Battle Mountain several seconds later, however, and O’Rourke gave his team the lead with 26 seconds remaining with a smooth move down the baseline and under the hoop.

“We lost to Steamboat by one when we were at home. We’ve lost maybe four games by one this season, but we never give up. We just kept fighting,” O’Rourke said. “We kept our heads in the game.”

Kounovsky put Steamboat up one final time, making a pair of free throws with 18 seconds left, but O’Rourke struck yet again to the Sailors’ great disbelief.

“We were defending it well, but they got a shot,” DeWolfe said. “We just didn’t get bodies, and they were able to get in there.”

O’Rourke finished with 13 points. LyBarger had 19. Kounovsky had 26 to lead Steamboat and all scorers. Bye had 15.

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

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