Steamboat Springs boys lose to Rifle in opening round of district tournament

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— If there is a bright spot, the Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team knows how to bounce back.

For the third time this season, Steamboat lost on a last-second shot — 37-36 to Eagle Valley and 57-56 to Battle Mountain — this time off the hands of Rifle forward Tanner Quick.

The junior’s layup in the last two seconds gave the Bears a 29-28 win.

“It’s frustrating,” Sailors coach Luke DeWolfe said.

It was a frustrating kind of night at a game with a score that looked more like a football tally between the two teams in the fall.

Call it a defensive battle or offensive ineptitude, but the Sailors and Bears battled back and forth throughout the night.

Rifle, the No. 4 seed, came in as the hottest team in the league, winning its past eight entering Thursday’s contest. Steamboat has battled inconsistency all year but also had been on the wrong end of end-of-game situations.

DeWolfe said the goal going in was to slow the game down. Mission accomplished.

Rifle led by five at half, and Steamboat held a 16-15 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“We wanted to control the tempo and slow it down,” DeWolfe said. “They are that type of team, too. They sit in a zone and protect the paint.”

Steamboat, the fifth seed, led by as much as six points in the fourth quarter, but Rifle made a run.

With 20 seconds remaining and Steamboat down, 27-25, junior Carter Kounovsky hit a 3-pointer to give the Sailors a 28-27 lead with 13 seconds left.

Rifle called timeout and set up a pick and roll with Quick finding good position down low. He made the layup and was fouled with two ticks remaining. A missed free throw didn’t matter.

There are many parts Steamboat can look back on, but freebies were the main curse. The Sailors were just 6 of 12 from the free-throw line in the game.

“We executed a great game plan against a very good team,” DeWolfe said. “That’s probably a team with a pretty good chance to win this. It couldn’t have played out as a better scenario. But it was lapses in crunch time and not hitting free throws.”

Steamboat next plays Glenwood Springs at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Seven of the eight teams from the district tournament qualify for the state tournament, meaning Steamboat needs one win to qualify. It was 0-2 in the regular season against Glenwood.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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