Senior Carter Kounovsky, 14, and the Sailors boys basketball team are hoping to make a deep playoff push to avenge last year's early exit from the state playoffs.

Photo by Ben Ingersoll

Senior Carter Kounovsky, 14, and the Sailors boys basketball team are hoping to make a deep playoff push to avenge last year's early exit from the state playoffs.

Playoff-bound Sailors teams eye district tournaments

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— The Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team doesn’t keep a hush-hush locker room when it comes to playoff talk.

The cliche approach is to never look too far ahead and instead focus on the task at hand. But with the Sailors on a five-game winning streak — their longest since they opened the season 5-0, and all coming against league foes — they instead are using it as fuel with just one game left on the regular-season schedule.

As it stands right now, Steamboat essentially has locked up a district tournament seed. What remains in a bit of limbo, however, is what seed the Sailors will draw.

In 4A playoff hoops, the top five teams from the Western Slope League are shoo-ins for the district tournament, which tips off in Grand Junction next Thursday.

The Southwest League’s top-three finishers are eligible for the district tournament, but only the best two are guaranteed seeds. The final team — the eighth seed — is the top-ranked remaining team from either league, which, as of Thursday, would be Montezuma-Cortez.

Sailors coach Luke DeWolfe expects to draw the fourth or fifth seed in the district tournament. League-wise, DeWolfe said, Steamboat likely will finish either No. 3 or No. 4, but the district tournament is based on MaxPreps district rankings, which has the Sailors ranked 34th in 4A, behind Rifle (21), Glenwood Springs (27), Durango (30) and Palisade (31).

Steamboat split its league series with Rifle and Palisade, went 0-2 against Glenwood and didn’t play Durango. The Sailors are tied for third place with Palisade in league standings. Glenwood and Rifle play Friday to shake out who gets to hang a 2013-14 league championship banner in their gym.

Steamboat won’t get that prize, but DeWolfe said bigger opportunities await.

“We’ve talked about putting ourselves in the best situation we can as far as where we are going to be for seeding for the district tournament,” DeWolfe said. “We have to win these games in front of us right now, and I think that’ll all come after, once we take care of business.”

After Thursday’s win at Battle Mountain, Steamboat is in position to finish the regular season 6-0 on Saturday when it hosts Eagle Valley, which has lost eight of its past nine games.

It’s an unlikely scenario, DeWolfe said, but the highest seed Steamboat could draw at districts is the No. 2 slot.

If the playoffs began Friday, the Sailors would play Palisade in the district tournament’s first round, a team they beat by seven points at home a week ago.

Sailors hockey likes its chances

Steamboat Springs High School hockey saved its toughest test of the season for last.

On Friday night, the Sailors will take on undefeated Ralston Valley, which at 17-0 is primed to make a run at the state championship.

The Sailors, on the other hand, are likely to finish seventh in the Foothills Conference. The probable seventh-place finish will solidify a playoff spot for Steamboat, and though the Sailors will have a tough draw in the first round — and probably any round thereafter — their coach, Brent Tollar, isn’t overly worried.

Tollar’s rest-easy attitude is the result of a mixture of Colorado’s high school hockey playoff format and the resilience his team has shown throughout its 16-game season.

There are two 15-team conferences in Colorado, the Foothills and the Peak conferences, and the top eight teams from each advance into the postseason.

A cross-sectional playoff then begins in which the No. 1 seed from the Foothills, for example, plays the No. 8 from Peak, and so on.

If the playoffs were to begin Friday, Steamboat would have a date with 17-1 Lewis Palmer, the No. 2 finisher in Peak. The two were slated to play each other Jan. 31, but weather forced a cancellation.

The first two rounds are Feb. 21 and 22, and the locations belong to the highest seeds, so the Sailors would have to travel to Monument to take on Palmer. Then the remaining teams advance to the Frozen Four on Feb. 28 and March 1 at the Denver Coliseum, where a champion will be crowned.

The Sailors are 2-4-1 this year against those currently making the playoff cut with the regular season ending this weekend.

“I see this as something that is doable to do, to get in and play hard,” Tollar said. “I like our chances.”

Girls face tough seeding

Steamboat girls basketball coach Mack Spitellie has said it all year: When his team is on, he will take his chances against anyone across the 4A landscape.

With a win Thursday night at Battle Mountain, Steamboat essentially has the eighth seed locked up.

So, what does that mean?

A likely date with Colorado 4A’s sixth-ranked team in Glenwood next weekend, but Spitellie often points at his Sailors’ last performance against the Demons before he’ll count his squad out.

Steamboat lost by eight to Glenwood, a feat only one other team that has faced the Demons has accomplished during their 18-0 run.

“I told them after our Delta game last weekend, we are getting the eighth spot, but there aren’t very many teams who want to play us,” Spitellie said.

And a mostly healthy team should be a boost for the Sailors, who have seen a number of key starters fall to injury throughout the season.

“I love our chances,” Spitellie said. “We are in it to win it. That’s my mindset going in.”

On Saturday, we will preview playoff prospects for Soroco boys and girls basketball, as well as the upcoming wrestling district tournament.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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