Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team didn’t exactly slam the door on Battle Mountain Tuesday night. The Sailors kept missing important free throws in the game’s waning seconds, and the Huskies kept missing woulda-coulda-shoulda essential shots.
Steamboat was reliable on defense all night, however, and in the end, that was enough to push the Sailors by the Western Slope League rival in the team’s league opener. Steamboat beat the Huskies, 39-37.
“I really challenged the boys after the weekend we had to get back to defense,” coach Mike Vandahl said. “That’s always been the cornerstone of what we do. That’s why we need defense. We didn't shoot well, and you’ll have nights like that, but our defense won us that game.”
The win was especially welcome for the Sailors after they went 0-3 this weekend in a Front Range tournament, but it definitely didn’t come comfortably.
Steamboat missed five of six free throws down the stretch.
Battle Mountain possessed the ball for most of the final 45 seconds and had two clean 3-point looks in that stretch — threats to tie the game, but both missed. The Huskies collected both rebounds, however, and Ethan Tatreau scooped up the rebound off the second and put it right back up to the deficit to one point with 6 seconds remaining.
Ethan Riniker sank one of his two free throws on the ensuing possession but critically leapt into the lane to grab the rebound after his second attempt missed, forcing a tie-up and earning back possession for the Sailors with 4 seconds remaining.
Battle Mountain did get one more chance, but a desperation 3-point shot missed at the buzzer.
Riniker finished with 29 points, nearly 75 percent of the Sailors’ total. He also had nine rebounds.
Next up for Steamboat, 5-5, is a pair of games in and around Grand Junction this weekend. The team plays Friday night at Grand Junction Central and Saturday at Fruita-Monument.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9