Steamboat Springs Athletic contests seldom get much closer than Wednesday’s Class 4A showdown matching the Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team against the visiting Windsor Wizards in the opening round of the state playoffs.
After four quarters of back-and-forth action in a game that stayed within two points most of the way, the Wizards pulled out a 51-47 win, advancing to the next round of the playoffs and ending the Sailors’ season.
Steamboat finishes the year 12-12 overall and 8-4 in league play. Windsor improves to 12-12 overall and 9-5 in league play.
According to Sailors’ coach Michael Vandahl, the nauseatingly close game came down to a couple of bad breaks in the ebbing seconds of the final quarter.
“I truly believe a couple of bounces going a different way and we would have had that game,” Vandahl said. “I’m extremely proud of them. We started 2-4 in league and to finish 8-4 and win the league championship is a great accomplishment.”
The Sailors trailed Windsor 14-10 at the end of the opening quarter, but a concerted Sailor scoring effort in the second, led by senior Ethan Riniker, with six points, gave the Sailors a 23-22 lead going into halftime.
Riniker helped expand that lead with three 3-pointers in the third quarter. His brother, sophomore Mac Rinicker, added six more points in the third to help put the team up, 40-37, going into the final quarter.
As the final 3 minutes ticked from the clock, two consecutive fouls by the Sailors send Wizards’ senior guard Jake Hammond to the line. He hit three of the four shots, knotting the game at 47-47.
Junior Tyler McGinnis snagged a steal from the Sailors with 1:30 remaining, breaking back down the court and adding the go-ahead score with a short jumper.
The Sailors had a couple more chances to even the game back up, but both possessions ended in turnovers.
Ethan Riniker led the Sailors with 19 points, followed by Mac Riniker and King with nine each, Charlie Harrington with four and Jake Berry and Jacob Taulman with three each.
For the Wizards, Hammond had 13, McGinnis and Corte Tapia 11 each, Kirk Relford seven, Nate Huntsman four, Andy Evans three and Brayden Peterson two.
Vandahl said the teams were incredibly well matched, and the Sailors were in the running right up to the final buzzer.
“When you play good teams like that — evenly matched teams in playoff basketball — the margin for error is that much smaller, and the late-game scenario is you’ve got to be that much more aggressive, and you can’t get tight,” Vandahl said. “I really think that game could have gone either way.”
To reach Jim Patterson, call 970-871-4208, email jpatterson@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JimPatterson15