Sailors boys district championship hopes dashed by Palisade

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— It was an uncharacteristic night Thursday for Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball that ended with an all-too-familiar feeling when the final buzzer sounded against Palisade.

The Sailors, with aspirations of going into Grand Junction and coming away as district tournament champions, squandered a halftime lead in the first round, losing to the Bulldogs, 50-37.

The loss doesn’t knock Steamboat completely out of the district tournament, but it did sink the Sailors into the opposite side of the bracket than they were looking for.

“It was just one of those games where we had opportunities and we didn’t take care of them and they did, especially down the stretch,” Steamboat coach Luke DeWolfe said.

It was the first time Steamboat had lost to Palisade since early January of last year.

The Sailors came out with hot shooting, taking a 15-9 first-quarter lead, a margin that dwindled to a 23-21 gap at halftime.

Then Palisade asserted itself on both sides of the floor in what DeWolfe called a physical contest, one that his Sailors didn’t match up well to.

Steamboat scored just 14 points in the final two quarters, including a four-point fourth quarter. The Bulldogs did most of their damage in the post area, DeWolfe said, taking advantage of Steamboat center Garrett Bye’s off night. Bye finished with just two points.

“It was a real physical game the whole way and we didn’t respond to that as well as we would have liked,” DeWolfe said. “That physical nature favored them.”

Zach Dunklin led all Steamboat scorers with 11 points, followed by Matthew Lanning’s nine points and Brody King’s eight. The Sailors' leading scorer Carter Kounovsky finished with six points.

The free-throw line didn’t do the Sailors any favors, either, after shooting below 50 percent at 5-of-12.

Steamboat has a shot to advance to Saturday's final round when it takes the court again Friday at 4:30 p.m. The Sailors will play the loser of the No. 1 Rifle and No. 8 Cortez game. If the Sailors lose Friday, however, they are eliminated from district play.

“We will have our hands full, and we will have to regroup,” DeWolfe said.

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

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