A new star was born for Moffat County, but an usual star kept the Steamboat Springs Sailors just out of reach in the championship game of the Western Slope League tournament.
Bulldog junior Derek Ellgen scored a career high 13 points to keep the tournament hosts close, but Sailor senior Cameron Burney scored 8 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to lead his team to a 42-36 come-from-behind victory.
"We relaxed down the stretch and picked up our intensity," Burney said. "We got lazy there for a while, especially in the second quarter, and let them back in."
The Sailors opened up the game with an 11-2 lead in the first quarter. The Bulldogs were 1 for 10 from the field in the first quarter.
"We had to make some adjustments after the first quarter," Moffat County coach Mike LeWarne said. "We went to a four-guard offense and forced Burney out on the perimeter so he had to guard somebody."
The Bulldogs found their touch in the second quarter, scoring 18 points. They hit four threes -- two from Ellgen -- and outscored the Sailors 18-8 in the quarter. After Ellgen hit his first two threes, every time he touched the ball the Steamboat bench would yell, "Shooter!"
It was a new experience for a player whose previous best was 2 points in a varsity game.
"Usually it's one of the other guards, who they look out for," he said. "I was fresh for tonight, and I did what I could to help the team."
Moffat led at halftime, 20-17.
"Our adjustments worked for a quarter," LeWarne said. "But you know that (Steamboat coach) Kelly (Meek) is going to make the right adjustment at some point."
The teams played evenly in the third quarter, and the Bulldogs led 28-25 at the start of the fourth.
Sailor senior Tyler Fosdick hit a three pointer with 6 minutes, 36 seconds remaining to tie the game at 31. Fosdick added another basket 40 seconds later to put his team up for the first time since the second quarter 33-31.
That's when Burney took over.
A blocked shot with 4:15 left, a one-on-one post move for a score with 4:04 left and a put-back dunk over three players with 3:28 left. By then the Sailors were up 38-34.
Pat Ayres and Burney added free throws in the last minute to keep the Bulldogs from getting too close.
"We haven't been a consistent defensive team this year," Meek said. "I thought we were much better with our defensive consistency in the second half."
Meek said that the Sailors went into the game with the plan to shut down Moffat County on the inside and to be on junior point guard Derek Duran as much as possible.
The statistics show Meek's team did its job.
Bulldog post players, juniors Kevin Loughran and Jarrod Holmlund, combined for 11 points. Duran had a tournament- low 5 points and fouled out in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs also shot an ice- cold 13 for 34 for 35 percent from the field.
"Steamboat played a good game," LeWarne said. "Right now, they are the team to beat in the WSL. But I think this league is close enough that on any night, anyone could win."
Meek said what he learned from the weekend was that WSL teams give many different looks.
"There are so many different systems," he said. "Teams match up differently and every night there could be something that could get you."
The Sailors moved into the championship game by beating Rifle in the semifinals.
The Bulldogs advanced with a win against Glenwood Springs. The Bears finished third by beating the Demons in the consolation final.
Battle Mountain beat Eagle Valley in the fifth and sixth games. Palisade beat Delta for seventh place.
The win improved the Sailors to 6-2. The Bulldogs are 4-2.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 ext. 211, or firstname.lastname@example.org.