Monterotti steals show as Sailors stop Bulldogs

— At 6-foot-6, Nick Monterotti might stand above the rest of the Steamboat Springs boys basketball team, but he hadn't ever done anything to stand out.

Until Saturday night.

In the closing seconds of Steamboat's 61-50 victory over Palisade, the junior reserve left to a standing ovation from the home crowd after helping Steamboat improve to 9-1 overall and 3-0 in the league by scoring four points and pulling down a team-high seven rebounds.

But what showed up on the other side of the score sheet perhaps mattered most.

Justin Unfred, Palisade's 6-foot-5 presence inside, is among the top players in the Western Slope. He entered Saturday's contest one night removed from stuffing 29 points down the throat of Moffat County.

On Saturday, Unfred had eight points, thanks in large part to Monterotti.

Granted, the Bulldogs' perimeter players were freed up because of the attention given to Unfred, but Steamboat coach Kelly Meek said containing the Palisade center was the game plan.

With junior Devon Borvansky sidelined with an ankle injury, Monterotti knew he was Steamboat's second option down low behind sophomore Cameron Burney.

When Burney picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, Monterotti turned into the Sailors' only option.

"I came into warmups figuring I had to go hard," Monterotti said. "I just focused on defense. I figured I was just going to go in and D-up. That was my main goal."

After holding on to defeat Delta 59-57 Friday night, the Sailors turned around and played another nail biter on Saturday.

Against Palisade, however, Meek didn't gnaw down to his knuckles.

With the game tied at 43 after the third quarter, the Sailors went on an 18-7 run in the fourth, minimizing mistakes and maximizing the given opportunities to seal the win.

In the game's final two minutes, Steamboat ran its offense to perfection, chewing up nearly 45 seconds of clock before senior Cory Moore drained an easy baseline jumper, giving the home team a 55-48 lead.

Oddly enough, for the second straight night, the foul situation was heavily lopsided and with less than a minute to go, Palisade had to foul five times before a Steamboat player went to the free throw line.

Unlike Friday, the Sailors had little trouble controlling their possessions, and when the time came to knock down the free throws, Monterotti, junior Kyle Re and senior John Daschle went a combined 6-of-6 from the line.

"We finished a lot better," Meek said. "We came out and held solid in the third and stayed right in there. Cory Moore hit some big ones. Kyle Re had a great second half, and Nick, he basically stepped up and saved our bacon."

Moore paved the way with a game-high 17 points. Daschle added 16, while Re chipped in with nine points and four rebounds.

Steamboat's win set up an intriguing date in Craig on Friday. Not only will the two girls teams be looking to position themselves atop the league, each boys team will as well.

Game time for the boys is approximately 7:30 p.m.

--To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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