Sailors find love of game, despite 0-19
Steamboat girls celebrate victories as they look for wins
Steamboat Springs — Like anyone who’s grown up in the past 20 years, Steamboat Springs High School senior Raya Duryea has been reminded relentlessly that “winning isn’t the only thing.”
It often struck her as life advice worthy of an eye roll.
“You’re little, and you think, ‘Oh, what can that mean?’” she said. “The wins just taste so good.”
That was before this basketball season, however. It was before losses embarrassingly lopsided and losses, like Friday’s 41-34 defeat at home against Eagle Valley, frustratingly close.
Steamboat led by seven Friday and led into the fourth quarter. It scored only two points in that quarter, however, and its lead and chance to win slipped away.
“Winning isn’t the only thing” didn’t do much before for Duryea, but that was before this season. It was before 0-19.
“When you’re on a team that’s losing consistently, that message hits home,” she said.
The first thing the Sailors want to say is they’re improving — every game, sure, but every day, too.
It may not show in their record, but it has shown on the scoreboard. They lost a close game against Eagle Valley Friday, but lost to the same team on Tuesday, 56-30.
“I think everyone in town wants to see that win, and they’re so caught up in wanting to see the win, they’re not seeing the improvement we’ve made,” coach George Iberra said. “Look at where we were day No. 1 versus where we are today.”
The team Steamboat started the season with was definitively inexperienced and with a first-year coach in Iberra. There was only one senior, Duryea. A second, Kady Look, initially reluctant in the aftermath of a serious knee injury, came out late.
There were six juniors, but all were players who saw few, if any, varsity minutes as sophomores.
Along the way, the team hasn’t often been decisively bad. It has scored at least 20 points in every game but one and averages 30. It scored 50 Thursday on the road in a loss at Battle Mountain.
Duryea’s been the driving force on offense. She had 14 to lead the team Friday, scoring eight of her points in the second half. She swished a big 3-point shot late in the third quarter to put her team up 32-29, then scored on a driving fast-break layup early in the fourth quarter to maintain that lead.
Unfortunately for the Sailors, including her eight, the team scored only nine points in the second half.
Friday’s wasn’t the season’s closest call. That came last week, during a trip to Summit when Steamboat lost by one point, 36-35, in overtime. There was also a five-point home loss to Glenwood Springs earlier in January.
“When we’re playing a team like that (on Friday) and we’re up by seven, then lose by five, it does get frustrating,” said Look, who scored nine points in the game. “That was one of our best games we’ve played, and after working that hard and still losing by five, that is frustrating.”
There have been ugly ones, too. The team lost 60-22 and 60-25 on back-to-back nights against Pueblo County and Niwot at a tournament early in January. It lost 63-21 to Pueblo Centennial at home in the finale of its own Steamboat Shoot-Out tournament.
The Sailors are quick to point out there has been improvement, though. Next on the list is a more surprising fact: They’re having fun.
Given the right joke, Duryea and Look are willing to laugh at their predicament.
They’ve learned to love playing the teams that can smile with them rather than snicker and players that offer respect rather than pity.
“It’s fun when you play a team that understands that we’re all playing because we love the game,” Duryea said. “After losing so many games, you find joy in other things and just in playing the game.”
And, they’ve learned to appreciate the “wins” they do get, even if they don’t show on the scoreboard.
“Winning isn’t the only thing” has become more than a trite phrase to grind into children. It’s become the theme for a season.
A win would mean the world, of course.
“It would show how hard we’ve worked all season,” Look said.
There are three chances left, the best probably being a Thursday trip to play at Glenwood Springs. The other two are home dates against the two top teams in the league, Palisade, 15-2, and Rifle, 13-3.
Even if it doesn’t come, however, there’s no gloom lingering with the Sailors. There’s frustration, disappointment and, they’ll admit of their darkest moments, even a little “maybe basketball wasn’t the best idea.”
There’s also still pride. There’s hard work, and there’s plenty of fun, even at 0-19.
“I walked into the locker room (Thursday night, after a 66-50 loss to Battle Mountain), and I saw one of our team captains with a huge smile on her face,” Iberra said. “I asked her, ‘What are you smiling at?’ She said, ‘Coach, I hate to lose, but I’m loving this season.’ That is awesome.
“They’re keeping their heads up. They’re supporting each other. Those are the things I’m proud of. I’m having a lot of fun.”
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Steamboat Springs is expected to finish off July with slightly more precipitation than in previous years.