Steamboat, Hayden basketball teams prep for Wyoming tourney |

Steamboat, Hayden basketball teams prep for Wyoming tourney

Steamboat Springs High School senior Matthia Duryea fights for a loose ball during Saturday's game against Green River. Both the Steamboat and Hayden boys and girls teams leave today for a tournament in Green River, Wyo.

— It's fine and dandy that the Steamboat Springs High School girls basketball team is 4-1, its best start in four years.

But what's even more intriguing as the Sailors enter the Flaming Gorge Classic tournament today is that Steamboat hasn't really scratched the surface of how good it can be.

"The good news is that we're 4-1," Steamboat coach John Ameen said. "But the good news is also that we haven't played our best yet, by any stretch of the imagination."

Steamboat opens at 3:15 p.m. today against Kemmerer, Wyo.

The team then plays at 8:15 a.m. Friday against Mountain View, Wyo., and at 10 a.m. Saturday against Gillette, Wyo.

The tournament is at Green River High School in Green River, Wyo. It is regarded as one of the top tournaments in Wyoming, drawing some of the best competition from Wyoming, Utah and Colorado.

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Ameen said it's exactly the type of competition his Sailors need to see. After the team came off of a third-place finish in the Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out, Ameen said the focus was to refine offensive sets and work on transition defense.

After two good days of practice, Ameen said he's confident that the Sailors can compete with some of Wyoming's best.

But whereas years past were based on just getting better, this year, the Steamboat girls would like to come away with some wins and build momentum as the team enters the holiday break.

"There were two games last year where we put ourselves in a place to win and haven't pulled anything out," Ameen said. "This year we'll be in that same position. We need to have more confidence in where we're at. That'll be key and a good test for us."

Steamboat boys eye top-flight competition

Despite making the all-tournament team at the Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out, Steamboat Springs High School boys point guard Isiah Mendoza-Forsyth said he really isn't looking for moral victories at the Flaming Gorge Classic basketball tournament.

Like the girls team, the boys will see some of Wyoming's best. The boys open at 6:45 p.m. today against Rock Springs, Wyo. The team plays at 10 a.m. Friday against Union, Utah, and at 5 p.m. Saturday against Evanston, Wyo.

Although the Sailors still will be shorthanded without forwards Jack Spady and Connor Landusky, Mendoza-Forsyth said that shouldn't be an excuse.

"This tournament, we're looking to get better. But for us, we're always looking for wins," he said. "Our program is based on that. We don't lose."

Despite the absences of Spady and Landusky, the Sailors played valiantly at the Shoot-Out, finishing fourth.

But a closer look tells just how close the team was to finishing third or playing in the championship game.

Steamboat took leads in the second half of games against Castle View and Liberty and went into each fourth quarter tied, before faltering down the stretch.

After the tournament, both teams are off until Western Slope League play begins Jan. 8.

Tigers face big challenge in Wyoming tournament

Hayden boys basketball coach Mike Luppes said it was a desire to "raise the level a bit" that influenced the school's boys and girls basketball teams to sign up for this weekend's Flaming Gorge Classic.

Both teams will certainly get the chance to do that.

The Hayden squads start play today, and each is sure to encounter high-level competition in the guaranteed three-game format. The girls tip off at 1:30 p.m. against Farson-Eden High School, and the boys will follow up against Kemmerer High School at 5 p.m.

"It's going to be really tough, but if we can get over there and have success, it will be a great way to go into the Christmas break," girls coach Eric Hamilton said.

The girls play at 3:15 p.m. Friday against Rock Springs High School and then at 5 p.m. Saturday against Star Valley.

To be successful, Hamilton said his team would need to take care of the basketball and be patient on offense.

"It could backfire," he said. "But I'm confident we'll be able to go over there and be competitive. We are excited, and the girls are confident they can play with anyone."

The boys follow up their opening game against an undefeated Kemmerer with a 1:30 p.m. Friday game against Wyoming Class 2A 2008-09 state qualifier Mountain View. They then play an 8:15 a.m. Saturday game against host Green River.

Luppes said the key to a successful weekend would be maintaining what has been a huge rebounding advantage for the team while cutting out the turnovers that led to a first-round loss in last weekend's Meeker tournament.

If you go

What: Flaming Gorge Classic basketball tournament

When: Steamboat girls open at 3:15 p.m. today against Kemmerer, Wyo. Steamboat boys play at 6:45 p.m. today against Rock Springs, Wyo. Hayden girls open at 1:30 p.m. today against Farson-Eden High School, and the boys play Kemmerer High School at 5 p.m. today.

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