Steamboat boys basketball sails through turnaround | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat boys basketball sails through turnaround

Steamboat sophomore Mac Riniker drives the lane around a pick set by his brother, Ethan Riniker, on Thursday as the Sailors beat Glenwood Springs.

— A month ago, it simply wasn't working.

That's changed in a big way, however, and despite a positively miserable 2-9 record in the month of January, things have "clicked" for the Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team.

Thursday, the squad defended its home court with a 54-41 trouncing of Glenwood Springs, avenging one of those January losses and keeping alive the team's playoff hopes.

"We're a lot better," senior Ethan Riniker said. "Somewhere along the line, something just clicked. We're playing great, and we want to keep that going."

The only guaranteed ticket to the 48-team Class 4A playoff bracket is winning the league. Thursday's win made the Sailors 5-4 in the Western Slope, but Eagle Valley, 7-2, would need to lose its last two regular season games and, thus, has an inside track there.

If Steamboat could also win out, however, it would be in line for a tie at second place. It's one of three teams that currently has four losses. Another is Thursday's opponent, Glenwood, now 6-4, and the third is Rifle, 5-4, which is due for a trip to Steamboat Springs on Tuesday.

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Steamboat also has Palisade, 3-6 in the league and 4-15 overall, and Summit, 2-7 and 7-12, on the schedule at home to wrap up the regular season.

On one hand, Steamboat has already lost to all those teams once, during that January drought that included eight consecutive road games.

On the other, the Sailors insist they're a lot different today than they were when they lost those games.

"We've really grown," coach Michael Vandahl said.

Thursday's performance would back up their insistence.

Riniker helped lead the way, scoring 14 points. Younger brother Mac Riniker also scored 14, but eight different Sailors scored in what was a spread out scoring effort.

Steamboat jumped to a big early lead and was up 17-4 late in the first quarter. A Glenwood 3-pointer jumpstarted the Demons, who eventually made the score 19-15. Ethan Riniker made five consecutive free throws to close out the half, however, and Steamboat went into the break up 25-17.

The Sailors also had a fat lead heading into the fourth quarter of their previous game at Glenwood, but couldn't hang onto it and ended up losing by one, 39-38.

Steamboat closed the door Thursday. It blew the lead up into double digits, then hung on to win comfortably.

Vandahl pointed to growth across his roster, including sophomores Mac Riniker and Tyler Doyne and junior Jake Berry.

"Guys who didn't play much last year are finding their rhythm," he said. "It took awhile to get into it, but they're starting to play at a good tempo and to really make good basketball plays."

The team is next at home at 2 p.m. Saturday against Palisade.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9