Sailors see progress in second half of season after win over Bears
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs (5-12, 3-3) is looking to turn a new leaf in the second half of Western Slope League play, and proved it after a 35-25 victory over Rifle (4-13, 4-3).
The Sailors girls basketball team lost its previous matchup against the Bears on Jan. 12, 46-40, but knowing they were that close to victory was like horseshoes: it counted.
“Where were we the last three years?” Sailors head coach George Ibarra said. “We were getting blown out. And then, we weren’t doing all the right things, but we were seeing a lot of positive flashes. And now, the second half of this season, the flashes are coming together. It’s now a light, the fans are excited, the kids are excited, the parents are excited, everybody’s excited.”
The Sailors currently have four losses by 8 points or fewer, and two of them were against Western Slope teams Rifle and Palisade (5-12, 3-3). Both are lined up to play the Sailors this weekend, and there’s no better advantage than a home court.
Those almost-wins showed Ibarra the Sailors were growing, and — given the Sailors hadn’t won a game in two years before this season — it’s a sign that the best is yet ahead. And if the Sailors can eclipse those two wins, they could leap to the third-best team in the Western Slope.
The first quarter against Rifle was low scoring, both the Sailors and the Bears only managed to squeak four points. The next quarter set a higher pace, where the Sailors took an 11-10 lead at half.
The Sailors started to break down barriers in the third quarter. Junior Jaycee May dribbled down middle, spun to her right for a fade-away jump shot to give the Sailors a 16-14 edge. Junior Katie Lake charged up the middle to make the shot for an 18-15 lead. The Sailors held the Bears to four points in the quarter, and Lake finished with a buzzer-beating field goal to make it 20-15.
Steamboat Springs finally found its groove in the fourth quarter, finding the basket quickly to score six points within the first two minutes. A level of comfort went a long way as freshman post Samantha Campbell stole the ball on a full-court press and knocked in an easy layup.
“Just closing right now, it was great because Lucy [Shimek], the senior said, ‘We recognized what they were going to run before they even ran it,'” Ibarra said. “Their IQ is just improving every game. They know when they set up. They know what’s going to happen.”
The Bears didn’t let up but, following a low-scoring three quarters, saw a deficit they were unable to make up.
The wrestling team watched overhead, and the bleachers were packed with fans as the clock ran down. The Sailors bench cheered on each shot as the sign of a new season seemed to illuminate the gym.
Lake and May each had seven points. Campbell added a six-point effort. Sailors sophomores Erica Simoes and Mollie Brown each finished with five points on the night.
The Sailors return to their home court at 12:30 p.m. Saturday against Palisade.
“To beat Palisade, we need to come out and really pressure them,” Ibarra said. “We didn’t pressure them last time, and I told the girls that’s on coach. We came out and pressured in the fourth quarter, and we lost by seven. We’re going to come out and pressure them and cause some turnovers. That’s what’s kept us in these games.”
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