Sailors capitalize on depth, win Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out for first time in 11 years
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs made the championship game look easy.
It was one of those days where senior Mac Riniker stole the ball out of a Conifer defender’s hands, storming down court for a dunk.
It was the exhilaration of Riniker’s pass clear across the arc to junior guard Connor Hansen for a 3-point basket.
The Sailors led 19-6 by the end of the first quarter, but the Lobos stayed on pace in the second quarter to narrow the lead 26-22.
“One thing I’m concerned about is, we had a couple lulls in the second quarter kind of coming out flat,” Steamboat Springs head coach Michael Vandahl said. “We can’t afford to do that the rest of the season.”
In the game against Colorado Academy the night before, the Sailors experienced a slump in the second and third quarters, where they only had 16 points, but held the Mustangs to 13. Steamboat Springs played the hot hand in the fourth quarter, though, putting the Mustangs to rest 20-10 in the fourth quarter for a 69-58 final score.
Today, the Sailors defense held the Lobos 12 points in the entire second half, propelling the Sailors’ momentum into a 60-34 tournament victory. It was the first time the Sailors won their own Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out in 11 years.
What makes this year’s Sailors so special is the shared contribution of every player. Although Riniker led the team with a 21-point performance, the Sailors displayed a multi-dimensional attack.
“I think that’s what makes us so difficult. We’re a pretty talented team,” Vandahl said. “We have a bunch guys as our second leading scorer, third leading scorer, and anyone can get hot anytime. We share the ball well.”
Riniker led the team with nine rebounds, but senior Dawson Lindquist added eight. As a team, the Sailors had 37 rebounds, including 11 on offense. Offensive rebounds have been one of Vandahl’s main focuses this year, giving the Sailors multiple opportunities to share the ball and score.
It’s what helped outside shooters like junior Ethan Pyles make two of the team’s seven 3-pointers.
“I think that we really bonded together pretty well and played as a fist,” Riniker said. “Just working the ball, passing it around and getting everybody shots was just nice.”
A definitive tournament win is great for the Sailors to begin the season, but next week, they’ll head to rival Moffat County before hosting Mead on Saturday. The team looks to be a well-oiled machine for now, but it’s too early to tell how special this year might be.
“We need to continue to get better, focus on our next game,” Vandahl said. “Our big goal this season is to focus on the now and not look ahead. Just take it one day at a time.”
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