Steamboat boys hang on to snag season-opening win against Fruita Monument | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat boys hang on to snag season-opening win against Fruita Monument

Ben Ingersoll

— Come back, grab a lead and hold on is how Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball found itself 1-0 to start the 2014-15 season Thursday night against Fruita Monument at the Warrior Challenge in Grand Junction.

The Sailors fell behind early but used a big third quarter and some late timely defense to down the Wildcats in thrilling fashion, 41-39.

Fruita Monument led nearly the entire first half en route to a 24-21 lead at the break, but the Sailors quickly erased the deficit in the third, outscoring the Wildcats, 17-5, in the period, a good-enough cushion to avoid a final-second loss.

“It was a tough first half,” Steamboat coach Luke DeWolfe said. “Coming out for our first game, we had a little jitters but we settled in. We hung in there and battled through that first half and played a solid third quarter and were able to take a nice lead.”

Fruita Monument had its chance to tie the game or nail a game-winner with 8.6 seconds remaining in the contest, but last season’s leading scorer for the Wildcats Dylan Row (10.2 points per game in 2013-14) rimmed out a 3-pointer as time expired.

The Wildcats made the Sailors offense feel it from start to finish with their full-court press, but a few big dunks from senior Garrett Bye and a break-away slam from junior Robi Powers helped shift the momentum in Steamboat’s favor.

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On the other end of the court, Steamboat’s defense held Fruita Monument to just 15 second-half points and 39 total. The Wildcats were held to 39 points or fewer just four times last season.

“We made some fantastic defensive stands down the stretch and were able to do enough to get the win away from home,” DeWolfe said. “In road games, you definitely have to take that as a good win.”

Senior Austin Kerbs stepped into a starting-five role and had a team-high 13 points. Bye finished with 12 points and Powers pitched in 10 more, six of which came on back-to-back 3-pointers in a critical second-half stretch.

Brody King had four points and Hector Lopez had two more for the Sailors.

Kerbs “is a kid who came into a starting position this year through some injuries and other things and he’s really stepped up,” DeWolfe said. “He just absolutely worked his tail off the entire night. He really, really stepped up."

Steamboat continues at the round-robin tournament Friday against Grand Junction, a 21-win team last winter. Tipoff is at 8:30 p.m.

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