Sailors boys basketball hoping to avoid giving Delta puncher’s chance |

Sailors boys basketball hoping to avoid giving Delta puncher’s chance

Steamboat Springs boys basketball coach Luke DeWolfe runs his players through a drill during Wednesday's practice. On Saturday, the Sailors will square off with Delta, a reeling program that loves to bring a physical game to the court.
Ben Ingersoll

— The Delta High School boys basketball team may not be the best squad the 4A Western Slope League has to offer, but the Panthers know how to snakebite teams that are looking to assert themselves atop the conference standings.

The Steamboat Springs Sailors know this all too well.

Each of the past three seasons, Steamboat has suffered at least one regular-season loss to Delta, a team that has been on a steady downslide since finishing second in league play in 2011-12. The Panthers finished third in 2012-13 and fifth last winter, and they are currently the second-to-last-place squad in the 4A Western Slope.

Steamboat is trying to make sure Delta doesn’t sneak up and hand them conference loss No. 2 on Saturday when the two schools meet in Kelly Meek Gymnasium.

“They’re a good team,” Sailors coach Luke DeWolfe said after Wednesday’s practice. “It’s one of those teams that will play you hard from beginning to end.”

Much like last Saturday’s opponent in Palisade, Delta comes in as a rough group of bruisers, led by its pair of monster seniors Eian Baier (6-foot-5) and Cade Gafford (6-foot-6).

The Panthers want to turn the game into football on court, so to speak. They’ll come out fast paced and they’ll come out swinging, and the Sailors’ front court of Garrett Bye and Nathan DePuy certainly will have their hands full for all 32 minutes.

“As much as anything, we’ve got to deal with their post presence,” DeWolfe said. “They have two very strong post players. We’ve really looked at things we can do to better our post defense, and at the same time, make sure we come out ready to play.”

Offensively, Baier is the second-leading scorer in the league, averaging 18.7 points per game, just a shade behind Glenwood Springs’ Cameron Horning at 18.9 points per game. Gafford is second on the Panthers with 10 points per contest and freshman guard Jaspar Carmichael has stepped up to average eight more.

Defensively, Delta loves its 2-3 zone look, something that caught the Sailors a bit by surprise when the two teams met Jan. 10. The Panthers raced out to a four-point halftime lead on Steamboat, but some locker room adjustments turned it into a 59-49 Sailors win.

“We did a much better job in the second half and I think now we’re to a place where we’ve seen a lot and we’re more comfortable with our approach,” DeWolfe said.

Steamboat is about as comfortable as any team in the league at this point, winning its last five games by an average of 16 points.

Delta can’t exactly say the same. The Panthers have lost six of their last seven league games, their only win against a lowly Eagle Valley squad.

How do you avoid a letdown and keep marching forward if you’re Steamboat? Its bevy of senior leadership certainly helps, and DeWolfe knows that should Delta catch the Sailors napping a bit, he can lean on Bye, DePuy, Brody King, Hector Lopez and Robi Powers.

“They see the bigger picture and they know what’s on the line,” DeWolfe said. “They know that every team is coming for them. They have to be ready to play.”

The game starts at 4 p.m.

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

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