An empty gym: The sights and sounds of the Sailors home opener
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Sports are such a sensory experience.
Whether at the high school or professional level, the atmosphere engages all five of spectator’s senses and sends heart rates skyrocketing and, sometimes, stop them all together.
Wednesday night’s game between the Steamboat Springs High School girls basketball team and Coal Ridge lacked the spirit and energy that most games have, but not at the fault of the Sailors.
The home team fell 48-23 to Coal Ridge in a nearly empty Kelly Meek gym.
“I’m not looking at wins. I’m looking to have fun, let’s enjoy the game. Listen to them,” said Steamboat head coach George Ibarra while motioning towards a locker room full of audibly joyful Sailors. “They’re not upset. Everyone did positive things.”
The Sailors themselves were the noisiest part of the entire evening at Kelly Meek Gym.
The thuds of dribbles echoed louder off the walls as no coat-clad fans absorbed the hollow pops. Music seemed louder but out of place because no heads bobbed to the beat. The bleachers were empty aside from junior varsity players and a pair of parent volunteers. The rest were spotted with stickers reading “please sit here,” but of course, no one did.
Cheers were soft, mostly sounding from players on the bench, which resembled a chess board of chairs.
Five masked cheerleaders encouraged the Sailor girls, who fell behind 11-0 in the first quarter. Points from junior Sam Campbell and senior Erica Simmons brought the score to 14-4 after one. Steamboat (0-1) limited Coal Ridge (1-0) to five points in the second, but only scored five themselves to trail 19-9 at the half.
“We just didn’t gel,” said Campbell. “Once we took a time out, we figured it out and decided on some new plays that were more inclusive of the younger girls (that) they had learned really well in practice.”
Halftime was arid, devoid of varsity boys warming up. The boys couldn’t play their home opener because the “team is under COVID protocols and will be in quarantine through Jan. 31,” according to an email from Steamboat Athletic Director Luke DeWolfe. For that same reason, fans were not allowed at the girls game despite the school wanting to have 50 fans at each game.
“Not having fans was weird,” Campbell said. “But it wasn’t as quiet as I thought. I think we make a lot of our own noise, at least we should with communication. Masks are hard to wear. They don’t affect your oxygen, but they affect the volume you can get in, which I find difficult at times, but hey, we manage.”
Campbell was the only Sailor who found any sort of offensive rhythm, scoring a team-high 19 points. She was aggressive on the offensive board, collecting rebounds and putting up second-chance shots.
Ibarra saw plenty of chances that weren’t taken and even more shots that just didn’t fall. Still, he liked what he saw offensively. The Sailors were moving the ball and looking for the best shot, it just didn’t always go in.
On defense, particularly a diamond press the team used last year, the Sailors snagged a few steals. The younger players are still getting the hang of the formation, though.
“We don’t give up,” Ibarra said. “We’re going to enjoy the game because at the end of the day, it’s a game.”
Coal Ridge 48, Steamboat Springs 23
CR 14 5 15 14 – 48
SS 4 5 6 8 – 23
SCORING: CR, Taylor Wiescap 20, Aceleigh Porter 13. SS, Sam Campbell 19, Erica Simmons 3, Grace Harper 1.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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