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League tourney tips off Friday

Sailors boys in Craig, girls in Rifle

Melinda Mawdsley

This weekend’s inaugural Western Slope League Tournament will provide one-stop scouting for Ashley Berggren, first-year coach of the Steamboat Springs girls basketball team.

She hasn’t seen a league team play. The only knowledge she has about the seven other league programs is that Rifle was ranked seventh in preseason polls.

“I think it’s great for me,” she said. “I get the opportunity to see the majority of the teams in the conference.”

The Steamboat girls enter the tournament 1-4 overall, but the Sailors have played a tough early season schedule that included games against Roaring Fork and Montrose. Berggren has seen improvement each game, she said.

Steamboat opens the league tournament against Palisade at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Rifle High School. Rifle will host the girls’ tournament.

The Steamboat boys (3-2 overall) will travel to Moffat County High School and will open the league tournament against Palisade at 4:45 p.m. Friday.

The elimination of a postseason tournament cost the league teams several games on the schedule. When programs were having problems filling the open dates, the schools turned to one another to form this tournament.

The games will count toward overall record, but they will not count toward the league standings.

“We will take advantage of this,” said Steamboat boys basketball coach Kelly Meek.

Although Rifle and Moffat County are the early picks to win the tournament and the league on the girls’ side, the boys’ side is perhaps a little more up for grabs. The Sailors are the defending league champions, but Meek said several other teams should be competitive.

“We haven’t played Eagle Valley since 1997 or 1998,” he said. “They’ve been a very strong program. Moffat returns a number of kids. Rifle will return a number of people. Battle Mountain has played a lot of tough games close.”

This week, Meek went back to defense, and the boys had a great defensive practice Tuesday. He said breakdowns on defense proved costly in a three-point loss to Northridge. He expects the defensive intensity to be improved this weekend.

This weekend’s tournaments are the final games for the Steamboat basketball teams before each breaks for the holidays. The Sailors resume playing when they host Moffat County on Jan. 8 in the league opener.

— To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com


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