Steamboat to meet rival Moffat County on the court |

Steamboat to meet rival Moffat County on the court

Luke Graham

Steamboat Springs senior Ryan Shaw drives to the basket during the Sailors' 81-29 win against Delta last week. The Sailors will put their 17-2 (11-0 WSL) record on the line Friday against Moffat County. The game starts at 7:30 p.m. at the high school.

— When you’re an experienced point guard like Steamboat Springs High School’s Michael Vandahl, it’s tough to get caught up in the hoopla of any game.

The senior has seen tough basketball teams for four years, along with some of the best players in the nation on the summer basketball circuit, and has played in his share of rivalry games. So as Vandahl prepares for his last game against rival Moffat County at 7:30 p.m. in Steamboat’s Kelly Meek Gymnasium, he has the ability to put the game into perspective.

“It’s just like every other game,” Steamboat’s even-keeled floor general said. “It’s going to be loud, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

That mindset, cooler than the Storm Peak chairlift in a windstorm, has helped make Steamboat so successful in the Western Slope League for the past two years.

The Sailors have won 27 straight games in league play. Barring an unforeseen late-season collapse, Steamboat is on its way to a second consecutive league championship.

There’s certainly a lot on the line when the Sailors and Bulldogs meet for the second time this season.

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Steamboat is playing for its playoff seed. Ranked fifth in the state, the Sailors have a legitimate shot at securing a host site for most of the playoffs. For Moffat County, the stakes might be even higher.

Once losers of 11 of their first 12 games, the Bulldogs have rebounded to win five of their past six. Moffat County is entrenched as the fourth and final playoff team from the Western Slope League with three games remaining.

“We have a huge task at hand,” Moffat County coach Steve Maneotis said. “It’s a typical Kelly Meek team. They have great guards, great posts, a great record and lots of talent. But you look forward to these types of opportunities.”

Maneotis said to compete with Steamboat, Moffat County will have to play an almost mistake-free game. While he mentioned how key a balanced offense will be, he said the game will be decided on the defensive end of the floor.

“Their success and record speaks for itself,” Maneotis said. “They have great athletes. This isn’t a team that’s going to beat itself.”

While Steamboat has been the class of the league so far, the team will be without one of its best players. Senior wing Aaron Calkins injured his ankle in last weekend’s win against Palisade.

Without Calkins, Steamboat will rely on seniors Connor Moore, Ryan Shaw and Nelson Brassell, as well as freshman Isiah Forsyth. And much of the load might fall on Vandahl.

But that’s something the senior welcomes. Playing on one of the best teams in the state the past two years, Vandahl said he’s used to seeing the opponent’s best.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Vandahl said. “We always get everybody’s best shot. I love that because then you get a challenge every game. We just have to play as a team and keep doing the things we’ve been doing.”