Sailors beat Bears, 51-36

Jon Mitchell

— The Rifle High School boys basketball team tried to counter Steamboat Springs’ size advantage with its overall quickness. In response, the Sailors quickly kept their distance from the Bears.

Robi Powers finished with a game-high 25 points for Steamboat, which pulled away from the scrappy Bears in the third quarter and held on for a 51-36 Class 4A Western Slope League victory at the Rifle High gymnasium.

“We tried to be just as aggressive as they were,” Powers, a Steamboat senior, said. “We don’t like to get kicked down because when we are, we kick right back.”

With the win, the Sailors (10-4 overall, 7-1 league play) are still alive and kicking when it comes to the league title race. They remained just one game behind first-place Glenwood Springs (11-3, 8-0) following the Demons’ home victory against Summit on Tuesday night.

The catalyst to that scoring run was Powers, whose scoring opportunities came in part because of the sheer presence of 6-foot-9 senior Garrett Bye. Even though Bye only finished with four points, the Bears’ need to pay attention to him opened scoring opportunities for Powers and the rest of the Sailors.

“They all try to get in to ‘G,’because they know he’s a threat,” Powers said. “So when they doubled him, we all had lanes to move to and go into.”

Meanwhile, the Bears (7-7 overall, 4-4 league) were able to stay in the game by eliminating Bye and moving him out on the perimeter with their offensive ball movement. It worked for a time, as Rifle was within a point at 15-14 halfway through the second quarter before the Sailors began to steadily pull away.

“That was the game plan,” Rifle coach Roger Walters said. “I thought the kids competed really well tonight, and that’s about has hard as this group has competed so far this year.”

Rifle senior Cody Rice finished with a team-high 14 points — the game’s only other player to reach double figures in scoring. He helped pace the Bears’ aggressive play at the beginning of the game, as his half court steal led to an opportunity at the line where, with 7 minutes, 11 seconds left before halftime, he hit a free throw to give Rifle an 11-8 lead.

Two minutes later, however, Powers hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the sailors the lead for good at 15-12, and he hit another 3 after a jumper from Rice to extend Steamboat’s lead to four points. That lead was double figures by the middle of the third quarter and, after a jumper from Rice pulled the Bears within 36-27 with 4:26 left in the fourth quarter, unanswered layins from Steamboat’s Austin Kerbs and Brody King gave the Sailors a 40-37 lead with 3:22 to play.

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