Sailor boys ready to grow up with start of league play |

Sailor boys ready to grow up with start of league play

Members of the Steamboat Springs High School boys' basketball team practice Wednesday inside the Kelly Meek gymnasium. The Sailors will finish out the pre-break portion of their schedule this weekend with games at Rifle on Friday and at home against Eagle Valley on Saturday.
Austin Colbert

If you go

SSHS boys basketball

Friday at Rifle, 7 p.m.

Saturday vs. Eagle Valley, 3:30 p.m.

*both games start at the conclusion of the girls games

— The Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team entered the season with virtually no experience at the varsity level. Now, six games in, inexperience is no longer an excuse coach Michael Vandahl wants to hear.

And he believes the players feel the same way.

“When you are six games in, you’ve seen most of it,” Steamboat junior Ethan Riniker said. “There are not too many things that aren’t going to come up in six games. So that’s a big thing for us. We can’t use that as an excuse. We can’t fall back on that.”

Through a 3-3 start, the Sailors looked every bit the young, raw team it is. However, there were an equal number of moments when the Sailors looked like a team capable of making a lot of noise later in the season.

Steamboat started 1-2 at a tournament in Grand Junction, including losses when it scored only 29 and 35 points. But at the Shootout last weekend in Steamboat, the Sailors went 2-1 and averaged 58 points a game, their only loss a 66-54 defeat to a solid Colorado Academy team in the final game.

“I feel like we definitely grew,” Riniker said. “We definitely learned a lot over the weekend. We were able to grow as a team and come closer together. It was a good learning experience for us.”

The tournament exposed many strengths and weaknesses the Sailors may have. It was the weaknesses that Vandahl focused on this week in practice, particularly the turnovers and inability to finish inside.

With league play starting this weekend, sanding out these imperfections was a priority for Steamboat.

“Every game exposes something that you need to work on,” Vandahl said. “It’s been nice to kind of regroup and work on some of the stuff we needed to. We were really able to game plan for both opponents. We kind of reviewed our preseason, because that’s pretty much over.”

The Sailors have had the week off to prepare for their final two opponents prior to winter break. Steamboat will travel to undefeated Rifle (4-0) Friday for its first Western Slope league game, before returning home to face Eagle Valley (2-4 prior to Thursday’s game against Battle Mountain) on Saturday.

Game times are 7 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., respectively, following the conclusion of the girls games.

“It’s good to go strong into break and have that good taste in your mouth,” Riniker said. “This is definitely the start of a new season for us.”

After Saturday, the Sailors won’t play again until traveling to Palisade on Jan. 8.

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert

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