Opener slips away
Steamboat rallies past Central in final minutes
After leading for just more than 30 minutes Monday night, the Central High School boys basketball team let its season opener slip away in the final two minutes, losing to Steamboat Springs 56-50 at Central High School.
With 1:44 remaining in the game, Zach Dunklin hit a 3-pointer to give the Sailors their first lead of the game, 49-47. Steamboat Springs hit seven free throws in the final 1 1/2 minutes to sink the Warriors.
Central (0-1) took an eight-point lead at half and seemed to be in control. The Warriors limited mistakes on the offensive end and forced Steamboat turnovers the defensive end, something they had struggled to do the past two seasons.
But when Steamboat Springs (1-0) started hitting shots, Central couldn’t answer.
“I think we played well early but got into a ‘you make the play, no, you make the play’ kind of thing at the end,” coach Ryan Hayden said. “They executed better than us, especially down the stretch and their shots started falling and ours didn’t.
“We knew they were a scrappy team and that even their guards could get inside and grab rebounds. That was one of our keys to victory, just making sure we did our jobs and boxed out and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Three major positives surfaced for the Warriors.
First, freshman sixth man Kyle Blair made a legitimate case to be included in the starting lineup. After spending the first few series on the bench, 6-foot guard/forward entered the game and hit back-to-back layups on fast breaks. Then he hit a corner 3-pointer to push the Warriors’ lead to double digits.
Blair finished with 10 points, and helped spread the floor for a Warriors’ team that drained seven 3-pointers.
“I was kind of teasing him before the game by saying that Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, if they can do their thing, Central High School is no big deal,” Hayden said. “He really rose up and took care of business. The best thing about Kyle is that he’s a tremendous shooter but he’s a better basketball player. He plays defense well and just does a lot of things well for us.”
Second, Trey Fair displayed the ability to hit from deep. During the first half, Fair was covered by 6-foot-9 Garrett Bye. When Bye sagged off, the senior hit back-to-back 3-pointers — he didn’t attempt a 3 last season.
After a dismal first half in which Fair scored only two points on 1-for-5 shooting and got into foul trouble, he erupted for 15 points in the second half.
When Fair burned Bye from deep, the Sailors moved a perimeter defender to cover Fair, and the big man started hammering Steamboat Springs from the block. He finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
“Bye starting giving Trey that shot and he was going to take it,” Hayden said. “I don’t think too many people are going to give that and I know that Trey has a good one-step dribble so hopefully, in the future, we’ll see a little more of that.
“But you know, Trey does have the relative green light for hitting that shot and I think that will continue as he continues to hit more threes.”
Third, the level of cohesion on offense and defense displayed outside of the final two minutes was something Hayden hadn’t seen during his first two years at Central. Central moved the ball from wing to wing with relative ease and executed set plays.
“We’ve been a really good practice team and in the past we weren’t so good at having that translate to the game,” Hayden said. “It’s nice to see that translate. We have great practices. We’re a really good practice team and I thought early that translated well.”
Fair led the Warriors in scoring and junior point guard Jeremy Champlin added 11 points.
After not hitting a 3-pointer during the first half, Steamboat Springs hit six in the second half. Carter Kounovsky led the Sailors with 13 points and Dunklin and Brody King each added 12 points.
The Central-hosted Warrior Challenge begins Thursday, with the Warriors facing Legacy at 6:45 p.m.
After trailing by only four points at halftime, poor shooting and turnovers led to the Central girls falling 46-32 to Steamboat Springs.
Coach Mary Doane said her team needed to “be simple,” a phrase she often yells from the sidelines.
“I think too often we try to do too many things rather than just passing to the person who is open,” Doane said. “I thought in the fourth quarter they finally starting passing well and didn’t care who shot the ball. Just being simple.
“They didn’t try to do anything too complicated with the ball. You can’t win the game by yourself. You have to play as a team.”
Sophomore post Cassidy Bryant led the Warriors with eight points and junior post D’Kota Brodie added six points.
Mikaila Jegtvig led the Sailors with 18 points.
“In the fourth quarter we decided that defense should be a priority,” Doane said, “which it should be, first quarter all the way through. But it’s the first game of the year and they’re trying to figure it out and hopefully they understand.
“It’s the first priority, and when you do things right on the defensive end you’re rewarded on offense.”