Steamboat Springs boys basketball win a closer game than expected against Rifle
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The No. 6 Steamboat Springs Sailors (13-3, 4-1) had a handle on the Rifle Bears (11-6, 2-4) in the beginning but found too much comfort in a strong lead and put the Bears back in contention.
It was no question the Sailors were the favorites, especially following a 61-47 win over the Bears on Jan. 12, but on Thursday, the Sailors closed out a 59-53 win they knew wasn’t characteristic of their talents.
The second half of the season is about defending the territory as Steamboat Springs looks to contend with No. 9 Glenwood Springs (14-4, 7-0) for the Western Slope title.
The Sailors started off strong, holding the Bears to only three points in the first quarter, taking an 18-3 lead. The Bears made up their faults in the second quarter, adding 18 points, but the Sailors were still well-ahead after scoring 13 points to make the score 33-21 at the half.
“Our defensive energy was huge, and we were really fundamental,” Sailors head coach Michael Vandahl said. “Offensively, we were flowing, and there’s a lot of good in the game, but this is theme the past couple of weeks where we have some really good stretches and look like the team we can be, and then we have stretches where we don’t look like that team.”
But after a dominate first half, the Bears slowly crawled back into contention. The Sailors maintained a 48-35 lead in the third quarter, but the Sailors only scored 11 points to the Bears’ 18 in the fourth. The Sailors came out victorious in the end, 59-53, but it was only until the final seconds people started to notice that Rifle was actually still contending.
“The past couple of weeks, we’re just really not playing up to our potential for 32 minutes,” Vandahl said. “We’re just not playing a complete game right now. There’s flashes of the team that we can be, but it’s really up to the players now. It’s up to those guys to want it and not pay attention to the scoreboard.”
Senior Sailor Aden Knaus blocked a shot by the Bears, then another pass was intercepted, and the ball rolled down court. By the time the Bears recovered it to bring it back, the clock ran out.
The Sailors had four players rack up double-digit points. Knaus finished with a team-high of 14 points, including four 3-pointers. Junior Dawson Lindquist had 12 points and senior Tyler Doyne finished with 10. Senior Mac Riniker finished with 11 points, four assists and nine rebounds.
As Steamboat Springs goes into its game Saturday against Palisade (12-5, 4-2), it will have to approach it with the right mindset. The Sailors previously beat the Bears and the Bulldogs by a sizable margin.
“When we played Palisade last time, that’s the last time I remember we played a really complete game,” Vandahl said. “We’re going to be just fine. Little things we can clean up. Basketball is a long season. It’s a grind. It can be difficult to keep that edge, but one of the things we talked about is we respect all, and we fear none.”
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