EDWARDS — Ladies and gentlemen, that is what a team aspiring to be elite does to a team that may not be so elite.
Vail Christian boys basketball took a 2-by-4 to Plateau Valley on Saturday night at the Wheeler Athletic Center in Edwards, dispatching the Cowboys, 75-23.
The visiting Cowboys scored the first two points of the game, and the Saints scored the next 29. That will generally work.
“It went according to plan. We’re stressing the defensive end and rebounding, and we did both very well, especially in the first half,” said coach Sheldon Kuhns, whose team upped its record to 6-1.
“Mental preparation for the game was just to keep the teamwork together, keep our heads in the game, no fouls and rebound the ball,” senior Parker Poage said. “We have a really big team and we can do that well.”
Kuhns and Poage may sound like automatons, chanting the same verse, but it’s the key for Vail Christian in January and in March, when the Saints still hope to be playing. Stuffing the opponent and rebounding lets Vail Christian transition, and the Saints have that part of the game down pat.
Plateau Valley scored with 7:41 left in the first quarter and didn’t dent the scoreboard again until there was 1:51 left in the half. Vail Christian owned the inside and raced out to a 29-2 lead during that stretch. Branden Currey led the way with 23 points, most of which came from his excellent work in the paint on both ends.
Poage is adding a nice dimension himself. While he can pound the boards with teammates Ethan Ellsworth, Cooper Gould and Currey and company, Poage also picked up a 3-point shot from Robby Bowles last year. Bowles, one of the leading scorers in the school’s history, was pretty much the authority on the 3-ball when it comes to Saints hoops. Page finished with 16 points.
“That’s my chipping distance,” joked Poage, who is also on the golf team in the fall, about 19 feet, 9 inches.
The Saints led 36-6 at the half, but put the hammer down with a 13-4 run to start the second half before pretty much everyone else in Vail Christian blue and white got to play.
“In a good game, you have to play 32 minutes,” Kuhns said. “Even here, we have to play a 32-minute game, and we’ve really stressed that, and the guys played well.”
A good sign was that in the second half the reserves continued to keep a lid on Plateau Valley’s offense and ran some of the first-team offense.
Things officially get serious for the Vail Christian boys next week. They’re at Soroco on Wednesday, home for Hayden on Friday and at Sargent on Saturday. Soroco has turned into a quite a rivalry between football and basketball and playing in Oak Creek is always tough. Vail Christian has never beaten Hayden and Sargent is a hardwood rematch of the two schools’ first-round football playoff game in November.
“We play three games a week for the next three week,” Kuhns said. “Now, the 2A (schools) start coming through. We go on the road, so we face the challenges of winning on the road in this league. But we’re trying the approach that every game is the most important game of the season.”
Saints fall in girls game
The start was good, the second quarter was not, and it doomed the Vail Christian girls to a 49-35 loss to Plateau Valley on Saturday night.
Concern No. 1 was rebounding. The Saints did well on this count in the first quarter, and used it to transition to offense. The Cowboys and Saints were tied at 10 after the first period. Then Plateau Valley took over the glass.
“We got off to a great start tonight by getting up and down the floor, which was our plan, but when you don’t rebound, you can’t do that,” Saints coach Doug Bruce said. “Those two things go hand in hand. We quit rebounding sometime in the first half, and, all of a sudden, we’re ground to a halt.”
The coach also said that his team wasn’t aggressive enough attacking Plateau Valley offensively, but did a better job of it in the second half. Saturday was also the first time the Saints faced a man-to-man defense, so that was an adjustment.
“We’ll learn from this,” Bruce said. “We’ll attack situations better than we did tonight.”
Jessie Hartley had 23 points for Vail Christian.
The Saints (5-2) face what Bruce called a “Murderers’ Row week” with a game at Soroco Wednesday, Hayden at home on Friday and a road trip to GIlpin County on Saturday.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.