Red-hot Sailors soar through Sweet 16
Steamboat boys basketball team defeats Golden, 73-58
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When it’s clicking, Steamboat Springs High School sophomore Cade Gedeon said, it doesn’t feel real, “an out-of-body experience,” he said.
Early in Thursday night’s Sweet 16 home playoff game, the Sailors boys basketball team very much had both feet on the ground, perhaps with a shoelace untied.
By the second half, however, the team was positively floating, playing out of its mind and out of its body to soar over visiting Golden, 73-58.
Now Steamboat, the No. 6 seed in the Class 4A state playoffs, is rocketing to the Great 8 round of the state playoffs, set for Monday on the road against Montrose. It’s the Sailors’ first drive so deep in two full decades.
“This group, with the pandemic, they’ve been through a lot,” Sailors coach Michael Vandahl said. “I’m so proud of them.”
Montrose, the No. 3 seed, earned its spot in the matchup with a come-from-behind victory against No. 14 Green Mountain, 54-52.
It’ll be Steamboat’s first trip to the Great 8 since 2001.
The Sailors didn’t seem poised to crack that barrier early Thursday.
The team scored just one of its first six shots. It struggled to make it through back-to-back possessions without a turnover, clanked 3-point shots from all hands and corners and trailed by double digits into the second quarter.
Golden’s Aliou Diallo, a smooth-as-silk 5-foot-10 sophomore guard, was the architect of much of that destruction, pouring in 11 first-quarter points for the Demons. Possession after possession, he was a step faster than the Sailors.
“He’s shifty, a solid player,” Steamboat senior Jakob Kreissig said. “You don’t see many guards up here that are making the moves he is and adjusting as quickly as he is. That was a wake-up call to start the game.”
A third foul on Diallo late in the second quarter and a shift in defense for the Sailors helped change the game.
Steamboat locked a player on Diallo for the rest of the game. After the early explosion, he scored just once in the second and third quarters combined.
“We just tried to keep it out of his hands,” Vandahl said. “They came out hot, and we had to weather the storm.”
As Golden slowed down, Steamboat sped up, and what had seemed so complicated early started looking easy.
Gedeon put the Sailors up for good, 35-34, after a backcourt steal and layup midway through the third quarter.
Kreissig scored on the ensuing possession on a sweet assist from Kellen Adams. Jackson Meltzer swished a 3-point shot several minutes later before Gedeon swiped another ball and fed it to Eric Pollert for a 10-point lead.
By the fourth quarter, the Sailors were so hot everything seemed to fall, including 3-point shots from Kreissig and Adams that helped the team to a 64-46 lead with just a few minutes to play.
When it’s all working that well is when Gedeon starts to feel floaty, that out-of-body experience.
“It was amazing,” he said. “We were hitting deep 3s. We got some steals. We got some fouls. It was awesome.”
Kreissig finished with 21 points, including four 3-point shots, to lead all scorers. Gedeon had 16 and Pollert, held scoreless in the first half, had 14 in the second.
Some of the sweetness in Thursday’s win came in clearing a hurdle that’s seemed almost insurmountable for the program and, in particular, Vandahl. He’s been a part of a Sailors team that lost in the Sweet 16 four different times.
He lost there three times as a player from 2005 to 2008 and once since taking over as head coach of the program in 2015.
“It’s special for the program, but it’s really about this group,” he said. “It’s about them.”
Now, the team has a chance to push beyond that mark and into the Final Four.
“I know all the Front Range coaches don’t believe in us, but we’re going to show them. We already have,” Gedeon said. “We’re a good team and we know it.”
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The Steamboat Springs High School wrestling team is days away from kicking off the 2021-22 season, which will have tournaments and more travel, things last year’s season with COVID-19 did not have.