STEAMBOAT SPRINGS - Battle Mountain's Jimmy O'Rourke paused to catch his breath. His teammates didn't stop congratulating him.
"I just went up and tipped it in," he said, grinning on Friday night.
It sounds easy enough, but his simple tap resounded like a cannon, stunning the Steamboat Springs High School basketball team at the buzzer, 57-56, and delivering a major setback to the Sailors' postseason plans.
O'Rourke won a battle on the block, leapt and tapped in a Joe LyBarger miss as time expired, handing his team the game.
"Joe took it to the top of the key, took a jumper and there was a high rebound," O'Rourke said. "I just went up and tipped it in."
The loss rocked Steamboat's plans for the next phase of the season. A win would have locked the Sailors into the district playoffs no matter the outcome of a challenging game today at Eagle Valley.
Now, the Sailors, 10-8, aren't promised a spot even with a win.
"Now our backs are definitely against the wall," Steamboat coach Luke DeWolfe said. "If we don't get that win, we'll probably be playing a pigtail game here Tuesday to get into the district tournament.
"This definitely hurts. It's one we really wanted."
The frustrating part for the Sailors --and, of course, the gratifying part for the Huskies - was that Steamboat led almost wire-to-wire, but couldn't hang on to a lead. Battle Mountain managed two one-point leads in the second quarter, none of which lasted more than a couple of possessions.
The Sailors, meanwhile, closed the first half in style, Garrett Bye scoring and drawing a foul as time expired to establish a 33-30 lead.
Steamboat's lead swelled eight points in the third quarter, but the Huskies (8-10) always found a way to answer.-
They cut it to two points before Bye helped spark another Steamboat surge with a powerful dunk on a sweet assist from Mitch McCannon. The Sailors got up by five that time, but it was one point again midway through the fourth quarter when Amadou Dath scored and sank a free throw.
Steamboat got yet another considerable edge when Carter Kounovsky drained a 3-point shot with 1:39 seconds remaining for a 54-50 lead.
LyBarger answered with a trey for Battle Mountain several seconds later, however, and O'Rourke gave his team the lead with 26 seconds remaining with a smooth move down the baseline and under the hoop.
"We lost to Steamboat by one when we were at home. We've lot maybe four games by one this season, but we never give up. We just kept fighting," O'Rourke said. "We kept our heads in the game."
Kounovsky put Steamboat up one final time, making a pair of free throws with 18 seconds left, but O'Rourke struck yet again, to the Sailors' great disbelief.
"We were defending it well, but they got a shot," DeWolfe said. "We just didn't get bodies and they were able to get in there."
Steamboat girls cruise against Huskies
It may have been sweet, but it wasn't quite thrilling.
The Steamboat Springs High School girls basketball team ran it up on Battle Mountain on Friday night, blasting the Huskies in Steamboat, 62-12.
Any potential drama was drained from the game very quickly as the Sailors scored 24 points in the first quarter. Battle Mountain, meanwhile, tallied just one basket, a 3-pointer.
The Huskies scored five in the second quarter, but were held scoreless in the third. By that point, Steamboat had already been shuttling in reserves.
Nikki Fry, one of five seniors playing at home for the final time, proved particuarly potent Friday night. She scored 12 points in the first quarter alone, finishing with a game-high 18. Fellow senior McKenzie Repollo scored 11 while junior Mikaila Jegtvig had nine.
Alex Feeley, Megan Stabile and Jessie Wallace rounded out the departing seniors.
Elizabeth Olivas led the Huskies with five points.
The win bumps Steamboat back to .500 on the season, 9-9. Battle Mountain slipped to 2-16.
The Sailors play again today, at Eagle Valley. Battle Mountain plays on the road against at Rifle.