Steamboat Springs Free throws and turnovers.
They haunted the Steamboat High School girls basketball team in the first half Friday night against Palisade and destroyed its last-ditch effort to steal a league win in the waning moments.
Inside 15 seconds to play with the Sailors down by three, Palisade’s Casey Brown sank a pair of free throws to push the lead to five and drop Steamboat to 10-7 on the season. The Bulldogs lived at the free-throw line from start to finish in the Sailors’ 39-34 loss.
“We’ve been trying to emphasize playing with our feet and not our hands, and we’re continually still putting one hand down and pushing,” Steamboat coach Mack Spitellie said. “It gets us in foul trouble.”
Steamboat (7-8) built as large as an 11-point lead in the second quarter, but the scrappy Bulldogs climbed back into it, in large part because of numerous Sailor turnovers and untimely fouls.
But neither team was able to pull away until Palisade’s final-seconds surge.
“I told them after the game hurts bad to lose a game like that when they had it,” Spitellie said. “I thought they had it but we just didn’t execute in that last minute.”
Steamboat was paced by senior Maggie Crouch’s 11 points and five rebounds. Senior Maddie Robertson pitched in eight points and four boards, but they were the only pair on the roster able to score more than five on the night.
Palisade, meanwhile had five players score six or more points, including Cruz Maestas’ 11 points — almost exclusively scored from the free-throw line.
On a positive note for the Sailors, it was the first game since December in which Spitellie was able to put his core group of seniors on the floor for meaningful minutes. Seniors Mikaila Jegtvig, Ashley Spitellie, Crouch and Robertson all have battled lingering injuries but played nearly the entire game Friday night.
“Finally we have some chemistry,” Spitellie said. “At least we’ve kind of started putting that together. We’ve got good stuff, and we’re going to get after it.”
Next up for Steamboat is a Saturday afternoon home date with Delta. Tipoff is at 2:30 p.m.
“We’ve got to play like we did tonight,” Spitellie said. “We have to fight and scrap. Our defense was fantastic. Our offense, too, other than the last minute.”
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll