Will the Steamboat Springs boys basketball team rise again?
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — “You see that tall guy in the middle, with the white jersey?” asks Steamboat Springs senior Ethan Pyles. “He’s 6-7. And the guy on the end? He’s 6-4.”
Pyles points to his team sitting on the bench during a November practice. He stands in the opposite corner of the gym wearing jeans and a blue button-up. He’s out for another week with a minor Achilles injury, but that doesn’t dampen his excitement for the season.
“There’s not a center in the state who can guard him,” Pyles said, referring to the aforementioned 6-foot-7 sophomore, Eric Pollert.
The Steamboat boys basketball team lost a lot of height, but it’s pretty clear it gained some as it attempts to match or best its performance in the 2018-19 season.
With a deafening buzzer-beater from Pueblo East, the Sailors season ended in the round of 16 at the Colorado State 4A Basketball Tournament.
“As soon as that happened, we dwelled over it for a week then went straight back into summer workouts,” Pyles said. “We’ve totally forgotten about it. We learned what we could have done better on that play, but we learned from it and moved on.”
It was the offense and leadership of first-team All-State player Mac Riniker who carried the Sailors to such a dominant 21-4 season. The team also benefited from the height and skills of the 6-foot-5 Tyler Doyne.
“I think we lost a lot offensively, but honestly, it’s made us stronger because we’ll have to pick up that slack, and it’s made us all more responsible for ourselves,” Pyles said. “We kind of leaned on Mac a little bit last year, because you know, he’s Mac.”Steamboat Springs boys basketball schedule
- Dec. 5-7: Steamboat Springs at Preview Classic: L vs. Golden 82-59, L vs. Centaurus 63-45, L vs. Holy Family 52-45
- Dec. 12-14: Steamboat Springs shootout, W vs. Woodland Park 49-46, L vs. Conifer 51-44, L vs. Colorado Academy 73-61
- Dec. 17: Moffat County at Steamboat Springs, W 58-55
- Dec. 21: Steamboat Springs at Mead, L 74-47
- Jan. 2-4: Steamboat Springs at Roosevelt, 2-1
- Jan. 11: Eagle Valley at Steamboat Springs, W 53-41
- Jan. 17: Palisade at Steamboat Springs, W 44-41
- Jan. 18: Rifle at Steamboat Springs, W 59-42
- Jan. 21: Steamboat Springs at Battle Mountain, 7 p.m.
- Jan. 25: Steamboat Springs at Glenwood Springs, 3:30 p.m.
- Jan. 28: Steamboat Springs at Eagle Valley, 7 p.m.
- Jan. 31: Summit at Steamboat Springs, 7 p.m.
- Feb. 6: Steamboat Springs at Rifle, 7:30 p.m.
- Feb. 8: Steamboat Springs at Palisade, 2 p.m.
- Feb. 13: Battle Mountain at Steamboat Springs, 7 p.m.
- Feb. 15: Glenwood Springs at Steamboat Springs, 3:30 p.m.
- Feb. 22: Steamboat Springs at Summit, 2 p.m.
Head coach Michael Vandahl said his team will share the ball on offense, and it might take a few weeks for the scoring to settle in, since his younger players will have to get used to playing at the varsity level. He’s fine with an unsteady offense though, so long as his team focuses on defense.
“Defense is number one for us. We’ve been the number one scoring defense in the Western Slope the last three years,” Vandahl said. “That’s going to be our number one focus. It always is. Toughness, rebounding, that’s stuff we can control.”
In the Preview Classic, the Sailors struggled on both sides of the ball, falling 82-59 to Golden on Dec. 5.
They’ll host the Steamboat Shootout this upcoming weekend, beginning at with a game at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, against Woodland Park. On Tuesday, Dec. 17, Moffat County will come to town for the first Sailors girls and boys double-header of the year.
On Jan. 25, the Sailors will travel to Glenwood Springs, and on Feb. 15, they’ll host the Demons for the final Steamboat home game, and it’s sure to be a heated one.
“I am so excited to play Glenwood Springs,” Pyles said. “Last year they came and beat us by 3, and there were a couple fights on the court. It was pretty intense. Then we went to their court senior night and beat them by 20. They’ve been talking a lot of crap since so I can’t wait to shut them down.”
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