Steamboat boys slow down, jump into 1st |

Steamboat boys slow down, jump into 1st

Steamboat senior Jacob Taulman looks to put up a shot Tuesday against Rifle.

— The Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball has bounced back into the Western Slope League hunt, thanks to a big increase in scoring, but Tuesday the Sailors picked a big win in that league, thanks to their ability to play slowed down.

Rifle played a deliberate game Tuesday, passing the ball around the arch and waiting for its shots. Steamboat, meanwhile, took advantage of the opportunities it got and went on to win 35-23.

That, with a loss by league-leading Eagle Valley on the road at Summit on Tuesday night, has the Sailors tied for first place.

"I was really proud of our guys, because we played a different paced game," coach Michael Vandahl said. "They're a very good defensive team. I was proud of how we defended. We shut their guys down then stuck with it offensively and ground it out."

The win bumps Steamboat to 7-4 in the league after a 2-4 start. Now Steamboat, Glenwood Springs and Eagle Valley all have four losses in the league. Rifle, which beat Steamboat last month 50-39, was also wrapped up in the same tie, but dropped out with the loss.

The Sailors, likely to make the field for the Class 4A state playoffs, play their last regular season game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at home against Summit.

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Progress in Tuesday's game was positively glacial at times, especially early. Leading 5-4 late in the first quarter, Rifle held the ball attempting to get the last shot of the quarter. Steamboat's defense turned the Bears back there, however, and on enough other possessions, all while getting enough done at the other end of the court.

The Sailors led 14-7 at half, then 21-9 midway through the third quarter. Steamboat senior Ethan Riniker led all scorers with 22 points, including an 8-for-8 performance from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to keep things from ever getting too close.

Steamboat's Jake Berry, one of the leading scorers in the past few weeks, was ineligible and missed the game. The team got seven points from Tyler Doyne, four from Charlie Harrington and two from McKenyon King as only four players scored.

"That shows the mark of a good team, if you can win different ways when your shots aren't falling," Vandahl said.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9