Steamboat Shoot-Out basketball tournament a draw, even from 1,600 miles away |

Steamboat Shoot-Out basketball tournament a draw, even from 1,600 miles away

Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball coach Michael Vandahl points out a direction to his team earlier this season.
Joel Reichenberger

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Bigger games await, and if things work out, there will be packed gymnasiums on cold nights in Steamboat Springs when the Sailors basketball teams play into February and March.

Basketball is never quite as in focus in Steamboat as during the annual Steamboat Shoot-Out tournament, however, which tips off at 3 p.m. to start a long weekend of hoops.

“It’s really just a basketball weekend, and it’s a ton of fun,” said Michael Vandahl, coach of the Steamboat boys team and a veteran of the tournament from his playing days.

“Ever since I was a little kid watching, the competition’s always been really good, whether watching us play or any other teams,” he said. “It’s just good, quality basketball.”

This year’s tournament will feature eight girls teams and eight boys teams, and the first games — the Soroco girls versus Moffat County and the Moffat County boys versus Roosevelt — will start at 3 p.m. Thursday.

The Steamboat boys take the court at 6:30 p.m. to play Montrose, then the Steamboat girls are on next at 8:15 p.m. against Prairie View.

Eagle Valley, Northridge, a Greeley team, Montrose and Mead fill out the girls bracket.

Eagle Valley and Northridge are sending boys teams, as well, in addition to Colorado Academy and Johnson County, from Mountain City, Tennessee, a small city in the state’s far northeastern tip.

Johnson County High School is more than 1,600 miles from Steamboat.

“That’s part of the fun about it,” Vandahl said. “They’re an unknown. Regardless of what their record is back home, we don’t know anything about Tennessee basketball, and they don’t know much about Colorado basketball. That adds some excitement.”

The Montrose boys enter Thursday’s game with a 1-2 record and coming off a 6-17 campaign last year. Vandahl sees a tough opponent for the first round.

“There are no easy games in this tournament, no cupcakes,” he said. “Montrose is very disciplined and hard-nosed, so we’d better be ready to go.”

The Sailors will then play either Johnson County or Colorado Academy on Friday, at either 4:45 p.m. with a loss, or 8:15 p.m. with a win.

The girls have a tough task, as well. Prairie View, their first opponent, is 2-0 to start the season. The Sailors follow up that game by playing Saturday at either 4:45 p.m. with a loss or 6:30 p.m. with a win against either Montrose or Mead.

Steamboat’s girls started their season with a pair of losses last weekend at a small tournament at Roaring Fork High School, falling to Roaring Fork 50-29 and Durango 49-17.

The team is looking for its first win in more than a year after finishing last season 0-23.

“They want it really bad,” coach George Ibarra said. “That was our Achilles’ heel last weekend. They wanted it so bad they were playing a lot faster and with a more intense pace than they could play. Turnovers killed us, so hopefully, this week, we can clean that up.”

Soroco is making its first appearance in the Steamboat tournament, and coach David Bruner is thrilled with his team’s initial draw, even though it’s already seen and beat Moffat County, which is ranked No. 9 in Class 3A in the preseason by, last weekend at a tournament in Meeker.

The Rams won that game, 51-30, pulling away in the second half.

“It’s another good game against a good team,” Bruner said. “This couldn’t have worked out better. We’ve wanted to play them in the past, but it hasn’t worked out with scheduling, but these tournaments have worked out in our favor. They have a lot of height, and we have some teams we will play that are tall, so this gives us some more experience against that.”

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

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