EDWARDS - On a team that's based on defense, Vail Christian's Gracen McGuckin stood out Saturday.
She got the unenviable task of covering North Park's Taylor Sykes, and McGuckin held her to nine points as the Saints took care of the Wildcats, 38-31.
"That was really pretty notable," Vail Christian coach Doug Bruce said. "That girl can play."
The coach was referring to Sykes, but he might as well been talking about McGuckin, too. The Saints, not surprisingly, got off to slow offensive start, but McGuckin seemed to get the squad going with a big 3 in the second quarter.
"I thought we played great in the second quarter, but we couldn't get the shots to fall," Bruce said. "Gracen gave us some juice."
The shots started to fall in the second half after the Saints were trailing, 17-16, at the break. Jessie Hartley led the Saints with 13 points, while McGuckin and Paris Baker each had eight.
In the nightcap, the Vail Christian boys team showed they could play defense as well, dispatching North Park, 81-40. The Saints put the clamps on during the second quarter, holding the visitors to just three points. North Park had 19 of its 40 points in the fourth quarter, well after matters were decided.
And while it's December, this was a big win with regard to the 1A district tournament in February. The Saints, who are 2-0 in the 2A Slope, drop down to 1A for the postseason, so finishing head of North Park and Plateau Valley is paramount for advancing.
"We're ahead of the curve, instead of being behind the eight-ball," Vail Christian coach Sheldon Kuhns said of his squad's lengthy quest to make regionals for the first time in school history.
On the rebounding front, Branden Currey had 11, while Kevin Boselli picked up eight. Robby Bowles led the Saints with 16 points, while Austin Ellsworth put up 14.
The ladies head (3-1) to Soroco Wednesday, while the boys (also 3-1) host Vail Mountain Tuesday. Both are nonconference games.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.