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Steamboat Springs basketball looks forward to start of league play

Steamboat Springs boys basketball coach Michael Vandahl and the Sailors run through practice Monday at Steamboat Springs High School. The team is looking to shake off an uncharacteristic, three-game losing streak in the league opener against Battle Mountain.
John F. Russell

— Things are about to get a lot more serious inside the Kelly Meek Gymnasium.

On Jan. 10, the Steamboat Springs boys and girls basketball teams will shift gears as the Battle Mountain Huskies come to town for the first league games of the 2016-17 season. The early game begins at 6 p.m. and will feature the Steamboat girls basketball team (0-8), which is on the hunt for its first win of the season against Battle Mountain.

The boys will take the floor at 7:30 p.m. as the Sailors (4-5) look to end a three-game losing streak that included a 64-62 loss to Niwot in the final game of the Roughrider Shootout at Roosevelt High School. The Huskies are 5-4 this season and a perfect 2-0 in league play.

Keeping it positive

Coach George Ibarra thinks the Sailors girls basketball team is moving in the right direction, even though it is still looking for its first win of the season.

“All these games we have up to today were practice. They don’t count, and they don’t mean anything,” Ibarra said. ‘The league starts Tuesday. This is where we buckle down and show what we can do as a team, what we have learned since the beginning of the season. We want them to stay positive, because it’s coming. If they keep working and seeing the positive, it will come — it’s there.”

But it will not be easy, as the Huskies come to town with a 6-1 overall record and a 1-1 mark in league play. Ibarra said he thinks the Sailor have what it takes to leave the court with a win, but more importantly, he said he wants to begin a tradition of playing tough basketball that leaves an impression on the other team, no matter the final outcome.

“They are going to know, regardless of the outcome, that they played us,” Ibarra said. “We are going to play hard, and we are going to try to win every game. The game against Battle Mountain is going to be a challenge, but I think they are up for it.”

The coach said the keys to coming away with a win will come down to basics. The Sailors will need to limit turnovers, and the entire team will need to contribute when it comes to scoring.

“We have not won a game, but there is improvement every game — there is always something positive,” Ibarra said. “Last weekend, we played Niwot, we played Woodland and we played Pueblo County, and they are all top Front Range teams. The intensity is there; we are diving on the floor and going after the ball. That’s the intensity I was looking for at the start of the season — the want is still there, and they are not disappointed in the losses.”

Ibarra hopes things will begin to come together as the squad moves into the league schedule, adding that the team is ready and looking forward to the start of league play.

Back to Sailors basketball

The Steamboat boys basketball team spent the first part of practice Monday behind closed doors in the team meeting room. When the players finally emerged, they headed straight into the gym as coach Michael Vandahl took a few minutes to lay out the team’s plan to get back on track.

“We are really excited to get a chance to redeem ourselves after this weekend,” the coach said. “We were not the Sailor program that we needed to be. The good news is that we are basically beginning a new season now. We are 0-0 in league play, and everything is in front of us. This game will be about showing who we are and getting back to the basics and playing Sailor basketball.”

The Sailors will need to be on top of their game, as the Huskies have opened league play with two wins and are currently at the top of the Western Slope standings.

“They are big, fast, strong and athletic,” Vandahl said. “We have to be ready to go.”

Specifically, the Sailors will have to limit the Huskies’ star player, Devin Huffman. The 6-foot, 8-inch junior has averaged 20 points per game this season.

We are going to have to keep him under control and limit his points,” Vandahl said. “But really, it comes down to our basics and our fundamentals. That’s what we need to get back to … to do the basic offensive and defensive stuff that we got away from this weekend.”

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


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