Sailors basketball teams emphasize teamwork, hard work in preseason training
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs High School basketball teams have claimed the courts for the upcoming season, kicking off official practices this week.
The boys are coming off a year where they took second in the Class 4A Western Slope League behind Glenwood Springs and advanced to the second round of playoffs.
They’ll pick up right where they left off with an invitation to the D’Evelyn/Golden High School Preview Classic, a tournament that hosts some of the state’s toughest basketball teams.
“We have a really hard nonconference schedule,” Sailors head coach Michael Vandahl said. “That’s how it’s been since I got here. I wanted us to be able to compete on a state level, and we have to be able to play the best teams. Last year we showed that we can.”
Steamboat Springs has the talent, returning a group of seven seniors, four juniors and two sophomores to the floor. Most prominent of the group is 6-foot-4 senior Mac Riniker, the Sailors’ leading scorer last year with 16.6 points per game. As one of the senior leaders, Vandahl expects Riniker to lead both on and off the court.
“Coach has been pushing us to lead by example — master any drill, master your craft,” Riniker said. “I’m looking forward to trying to get deeper in the playoffs and everyone staying healthy and out of trouble.”
The Sailors have had the talent. It’s just a matter of finding that team chemistry and staying in line off the court.
Junior Dawson Lindquist said the team has already started brainstorming more bonding activities beyond team dinners, like a bowling night.
Vandahl noted that Lindquist, as a sophomore last year, started to shine toward the end of the season and played for a top U16 team over the summer to ramp up his skills.
Lindquist hopes the team will play up to its potential this year.
“Last year it wasn’t really like a team,” Lindquist said. “I think if we challenge ourselves, we could do a lot this year — go deep in the playoffs.”
Part of that is owning his role as a more vocal leader.
“We need to keep everyone accountable,” Lindquist said. “Someone has to be able to talk to them. If there’s something going on, talk to someone.”
As a group, the team has put in a lot of work in the offseason, attending competitive summer camps, training in the weight room and playing 5A-caliber teams. The upcoming tournament will only set the pace for what lies ahead: a season of high-level basketball.
Sailors girls look to improve
The last recorded win for the Steamboat girls basketball team was Feb. 11, 2016 — a 44-40 overtime win over Summit.
“People tease us you know, basketball hasn’t won a game in two years … you know, whatever,” Sailors senior Lucy Shimek said. “It’s not really about the wins. It’s about having fun and getting better and doing something we love, but wins are nice too.”
Shimek missed last season with a crushed middle finger from dropping a 50-pound weight on her hand. She said she’s excited to get back to the game she loves.
“I just really missed playing,” Shimek said. “Been playing since third grade and haven’t missed a season ever since.”
The Sailors played in tournaments and open gyms all summer, racking up tough wins and improving on the court. Senior Julia Simoes said that experience and increased conditioning work has helped the team tremendously going into this first week of practice.
“We’re pushing ourselves more than we did last year,” Simoes said. “Our teamwork on and off the court is better.”
Simoes worked closely with head coach George Ibarra this summer to improve her ball handling and shooting skills. She knew she had to step up her game after being moved up to varsity from the C team last year.
The emphasis on fundamentals is key, because it’s those little things that can make all the difference in a game.
“Our team chemistry wasn’t there last year,” Shimek said. “We had some fluke incidences where we got tired or lost by a couple points at the end of the game. Since we all live in Steamboat time, we’ve talked about how we need to be here and be present and working on our skills besides scheduled practices.”
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