EDWARDS — Consider this the “seeing the forest or the trees” edition of Vail Christian basketball.
The Saints boys basketball team dropped a 79-59 decision to Paonia on Tuesday night at the Wheeler Athletic Center in Edwards in what was the first of three games in a week for the third consecutive week.
While the Eagles are a conference foe — and a very good one at that — Vail Christian’s braintrust is eyeing Friday’s game against North Park with its district-seeding implications. (This is a good time to remind all that the Saints, though they play in the 2A Slope, drop down to 1A for the postseason. Hence the importance of Friday’s game against 1A North Park.) Thus, the Saints played just about everyone on the varsity roster, while limiting the playing time of their starters.
‘FRIDAY NIGHT IS THE BIG ONE’
“We went into the game with the philosophy that we’ve got to rest some of our guys, so we did that,” coach Sheldon Kuhns said. “Our starting five sat 12 minutes of the game. That was intentional. We know that Friday night is the big one. That’s the one we have to get. Coming off Murderers’ Row of last week (at Hotchkiss, Meeker and Rangely), we’re trying to save our legs a little bit.”
Vail Christian fell to 11-5, which is not exactly the moment at which to press the panic button. Giving Vail Christian the benefit of the doubt on the strategy, it was still the team’s third straight loss, its longest skid of the season, albeit to three of the top teams in the 2A Slope. Perhaps, more importantly, regardless of who was on the court on Tuesday night, the Saints’ defense and rebounding was conspicuous by its absence.
Certainly, it is worth crediting Paonia for shooting the lights out, especially from beyond the arc. The Eagles dropped five 3s in the first quarter alone and sank 12 during the game, a whopper of a total. However, Paonia did, in fact, miss shots once in a while, and it seemed that a black jersey more often than not came up with the rebound.
And this trend didn’t just start on Tuesday.
“We did not rebound very well tonight,” Kuhns said. “I think it’s multiple levels. When the ball’s in the air, we’ve got to box out. We’ve got to attack the ball better. We need to get some fresh legs. Rebounding is half fundamentals and half the first guy to the ball. Right now, we’re not the first guy to the ball.”
Lest this account be all gloom and doom, several Saints who don’t usually see playing time had their moments on Tuesday night. Sophomore Logan Raitt ended the first quarter with a Hail Mary of a 3 that somehow banked into the net at the buzzer. (Future physicists will study the angles involved, but it was a cool moment, nonetheless.)
Junior Mason Daniels beat the buzzer from downtown in the third quarter, as well, while sophomore Alex Davis had seven points in extended duty.
Lady Saints fall to Paonia
The Vail Christian girls team finished the brutal stretch of its schedule with a 63-22 loss to No. 7-ranked Paonia on Tuesday night in Edwards.
In the team’s last four games, the Saints have played Hotchkiss, Meeker and Paonia, who have a combined record of 36-11, with a trip to the Utah border and Rangely this past weekend thrown in for good measure.
“Every time you play Meeker, Paonia and even Hotchkiss, those are pretty good basketball teams,” Saints coach Doug Bruce said. “Those a very physical basketball teams. We’ve got four games left that I think we feel pretty good about.”
That would be North Park on Friday, at West Grand on Saturday and then at Shining Mountain and at Plateau Valley next week.
“The theme for today was to go out and be more physical. We’re never going to be as physical as Paonia is, but I thought our older girls played more physical, especially in the first half than we’re used to playing, and I think that’s what we have to do playing in this league. By being more physical, you draw more fouls and get more rebounds.”
Paonia looked like the ranked team that it is, giving the Saints (6-9) fits with wits full-court press.
The Saints host North Park on Friday at 4 and 5:30 p.m.
Sports editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.