Sailors boys basketball comes back for tournament title
A new star was born for Moffat County, but an usual star kept the Steamboat Springs Sailors just out of reach in the championship game of the Western Slope League Tournament.
Bulldog junior Derek Ellgen scored a career-high 13 points to keep the tournament hosts close, but Sailor senior Cameron Burney scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to lead his team to a 42-36 come-from-behind victory.
“We relaxed down the stretch and picked up our intensity,” Burney said. “We got lazy there for a while, especially in the second quarter, and let them back in.”
The Sailors opened the game with an 11-2 lead in the first quarter. The Bulldogs were one for 10 from the field in the first quarter.
“We had to make some adjustments after the first quarter,” Moffat coach Mike LeWarne said. “We went to a four-guard offense and forced Burney out on the perimeter, so he had to guard somebody.”
The Bulldogs found the touch in the second quarter, scoring 18 points. The Bulldogs hit four threes, two from Ellgen, and outscored the Sailors 18-8 in the second quarter. After Ellgen hit two 3-pointers, anytime he touched the ball, the Steamboat bench yelled “shooter.”
It was a new experience for a player whose previous best was two points in a varsity game.
“Usually, it’s one of the other guards who they look out for,” he said. “I was fresh for tonight, and I did what I could to help the team.”
Moffat led at halftime, 20-17.
“Our adjustments worked for a quarter,” LeWarne said. “But you know that (Steamboat coach) Kelly (Meek) is going to make the right adjustment at some point.”
The teams played evenly in the third quarter, and the Bulldogs led, 28-25, at the start of the fourth.
Sailor senior Tyler Fosdick hit a 3-pointer with 6 minutes, 36 seconds remaining to tie the game at 31. Fosdick added another basket 40 seconds later to put his team up for the first time since the second quarter, 33-31.
That’s when Burney took over.
A blocked shot with 4:15 left, a one-on-one post move for a score with 4:04 left and a put-back dunk over three players with 3:28 left. By then the Sailors were up, 38-34.
Pat Ayers and Burney added free throws in the last minute to keep the Bulldogs from getting too close.
“We haven’t been a consistent defensive team this year,” Meek said. “I thought we were much better with our defensive consistency in the second half.”
Meek said that the Sailors went into the game with the plan to shut down Moffat on the inside and to be on junior point guard Derek Duran as much as possible.
The statistics show Meek’s team did its job.
Bulldog post players, juniors Kevin Loughran and Jarrod Holmlund, combined for 11 points. Duran had a tournament low five points and fouled out in the fourth quarter.
“Steamboat played a good game,” LeWarne said. “Right now, they are the team to beat in the WSL. But I think this league is close enough that on any night, anyone could win.”
Meek said what he learned from the weekend was that WSL teams have many different looks.
“There are so many different systems,” he said. “Teams match up differently, and every night there could be something that could get you.”
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