Steamboat Springs senior scores 1,000th point in win over Palisade
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There were three minutes left in the fourth quarter against Palisade when Steamboat Springs High School senior Mac Riniker made his 19th point of the game on a layup.
Riniker beamed as he ran down the court to play defense, he flashed a discrete “one” with his finger against his chest, signaling to the crowd that all he needed was one more shot to get to 1,000 career points.
His 1,000th point came on the next offensive possession. Riniker drove up the middle with ease, like he had done so many times before, and leaped.
When Riniker goes for these shots, it’s almost like he hangs in the air for a second, allowing just enough time to place the ball in the basket. It looks frustratingly easy to the other team, but his prowess invigorates a crowd like it’s a game-winning shot or a nuanced spectacle every time, even though it has been done hundreds of times before.
The members of the bench stand and yell, and a standing ovation erupts from the crowd. Riniker just smiles, he’s got just a few minutes left until he can fully celebrate.
When the game ends, the team gathers following its post-game handshakes. The Sailors had left the Palisade Bulldogs to drown in a 50-28 victory.
“We also want to give recognition for Mac Riniker, who scored his 1,000th point today,” the announcer said, after thanking the crowd for coming.
No one knows for sure the last time it’s been done, but it’s rumored that head coach Michael Vandahl was the last Sailor to eclipse the grand mark. Vandahl can’t confirm, he thinks he had around 900 or so points.
“We don’t talk much about individual stuff, but Mac has been a very dedicated player,” Vandahl said. “A lot of people see his talent and athleticism, but they never see him here in the summertime when nobody’s watching in the gym, calling me for workouts. It’s really well-deserved. Mac has worked really hard for it and he deserves to be honored for it.”
Riniker knew what he was playing for in Saturday’s game, and so did the team, maybe it was the excitement of being so close to his 1,000th point that helped fuel the Sailors through the full 32 minutes.
“It was fun, I think Mike was the last one to do it, so I’m glad I could be the newest one to knock him off the throne,” Riniker said. “People always push me and my teammates help out. I knew I had to get 21 points, and I think I got exactly that, it was good.”
Steamboat (15-3, 6-1) defeated Palisade (13-6, 5-3) before, 52-38, in what Vandahl deemed was one of its best performances Jan. 11. But the same Bulldog team tested Glenwood Springs in its 55-52 loss on Jan. 26, and the Demons currently stand at the top of the Western Slope.
Saturday’s battle was a fight for second place, and a chance for the Sailors to show they weren’t going to let up like they have since they last saw the Bulldogs.
In three of the Sailors’ past five games since their last meetup with the Bulldogs, the Sailors have experienced fourth-quarter lulls, averaging 11 points or less, including just eight points in the fourth quarter against Summit, which is low for a team that averages just over 57 points per game.
Despite only one Western Slope loss and a winning record, Vandahl said that loss of fundamentals made for mistakes in the second half, and he’s worried that will come back to haunt them against playoff-level teams.
But the Sailors stayed the course throughout the entire game, finishing the first quarter with a 10-5 lead, then building up to a 21-12 lead at half. Steamboat extended its lead in the second half to close out a 22-point victory, 50-28.
Steamboat senior Aden Knaus made five of the team’s six 3-pointers for 15 points. Riniker finished with a team-high of 21 points, including a 3 for 4 performance from the line. The team had 27 total rebounds and went 4 for 6 from the line and made 56 percent of its 2-point field goals.
“The big key was we stuck with our defensive fundamentals; we stayed disciplined,” Vandahl said. “This was the first time we played a full 32-minute game since the last time we played them down there. That just shows the kind of team we can be if we really put our minds to it.”
Steamboat plays at Battle Mountain (8-9, 4-3) on Tuesday, Feb. 5, but then returns home on Wednesday, Feb. 6, to play Battle Mountain in a rescheduled home game. The Sailors then travel to Glenwood Springs (15-4, 8-0) on Saturday, Feb. 9.
“It’s kind of funky, we go to Battle Mountain there and then back here,” Vandahl said. “That’s going to be kind of a challenge because we’re literally playing the same team back-to-back.”
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