Sailors hoping to cast a spell on Wizards, advance to the Sweet 16 |

Sailors hoping to cast a spell on Wizards, advance to the Sweet 16

Quinn Connell drives the lane during Wednesday's state playoff game in Steamboat Springs. The Sailors own the opening round game and earned an opportunity to face Windsor this Saturday.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The members of the Steamboat Springs boys basketball team will be hoping to come up with spell that will upset the Windsor Wizards on Saturday when the Sailors hit the road for the second round of the 4A state playoffs.

The game is set for 1 p.m. in Windsor. Last year the Wizards, beat the Sailors in the opening round of the playoffs 51-47. This time around, the Sailors would like nothing more than to return the favor.

"It was a really close game, back and forth," coach Michael Vandahl said of last year’s contest. "I think our team has a lot of confidence right now. Wednesday’s game started out kind of rough, and some of our guys who didn't have playoff experience got those jitters out in the first quarter. I think we have more confidence, and I think our team is picking up steam right now. Our goal this entire season was to be playing our best basketball at this time."

On Wednesday, the Sailors overcame a slow start in the opening round of the playoffs en route to topping Skyline, 48-32. The Sailors saw the return of  leading scorer Mac Riniker who finished with 21 points and got solid defensive showings from Quinn Connell and Tyler Doyne.

"At this point, teams just keep getting better and better as you move on," Vandahl said. "A lot of times, you just have to rely on man-to-man defense and all the stuff you have worked on all year long."

A win Saturday will launch the Sailors into the Sweet 16. Back when Vandahl was a player in Steamboat Springs, the Sailors advanced to the Sweet 16 three different times, but those team’s never got past it.

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"We made it the Sweet 16 three times in my career," Vandahl said. "I definitely have some experience that I can hopefully pass on to the boys. It's a lot of fun, big crowds, loud crowds and big momentum swings. That's why you work hard all season, is to try to get into these games and enjoy the moment. It's important to enjoy the moment because they don't come along that often. … It really is just one possession at a time. You can't look too far ahead, and you can't buy into the momentum swings. You have to stay as level as possible."

To get to the next level the Sailors will need to upset the Wizards on that team’s home court.

Windsor comes into the game 12-2 in the Tri-Valley League standings and 17-6 overall this season. Windsor, the No. 12 team in the tournament, had a first-round bye.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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