EDWARDS — Caleb and Sug, meet Parker.
Vail Christian’s Parker Poage lit it up on Senior Night on Friday at the Wheeler Athletic Center in Edwards with 33 points in a 56-41 win over North Park. The 33 points ties Poage with Caleb Pearson and Ethan “Sug” Ellsworth for the school record for most points in a game.
More importantly, the win gives Vail Christian the No. 1 seed in the district tournament in Olathe at the end of the month.
“We’ve got another big one tomorrow,” Saints coach Sheldon Kuhns said of today’s game at West Grand. “But this is the one we needed to get. We’re the one-seed in the district tournament — done, sewed up. That’s what we needed to do tonight.”
And this is why the Saints (12-5 overall and 5-3 in the 2A Slope) rested their starters in Tuesday night’s game against Paonia. With apologies to “Animal Farm,” some league games are more equal than others. While Vail Christian competes for a 2A Slope title during the regular season, it drops down to 1A for postseason play. In what is essentially a league within a league — Vail Christian, North Park, De Beque and Plateau Valley all play a round-robin with the winner earning the top spot at bye in the first round of districts in two weeks.
The Saints have a 5-0 record against those four teams and hold the tiebreaker over Plateau Valley (whom they play next Saturday in Colbran). Vail Christian boys basketball as a program is 0-for-history when it doesn’t have the No. 1 seed at districts. This past year, the Saints got the No. 1 seed and won districts, went to regionals and the state tournament for the first time.
Hence, there was much rejoicing.
Wildcats in a zone
As for Poage, he was like a kid in a candy store on Valentine’s Day, no less, for two reasons. First, the visiting Wildcats played in a zone against the Saints on Friday night. Three-point shooters can obliterate zones as Vail Christian fans saw during the past four years with Robby Bowles.
“My eyes do light up,” Poage said of the zone. “In the first half, I had a few air balls, but my coach told me to keep on perservering and to keep going, so I did.”
Poage popped six 3-pointers and got fouled on another attempt back in the first quarter — and he sank the ensuing three free throws.
Factor No. 2 in Poage’s performance was the gritty work of Branden Currey and Ellsworth. The Saints love to break out on transition with Poage running down the wing. They work it every day in practice.
Currey and Ellsworth and Cooper Gould did the dirty work well on the defensive end, and Poage was off to the races.
“They have the muscle and the skill to get the ball,” Poage said. “The passes are pristine and I’m just the lucky guy who gets the ball.”
As for the scoring record, there’s a wee bit of a logjam at 33. Pearson had that number at Coal Ridge in 2005. Ellsworth did it at Soroco this past month, and now Poage.
“When it happens, we don’t know it’s happening,” Kuhns said. “And, as soon as the game is over, it’s, ‘Again? It’s tied?’
It’s a good problem to have and made for a superb Senior Night for Poage, Currey, Sebastian Joly and Christian Bohren.
Girls lose heartbreaker
It looked good. It looked like Jessie Hartley was going to nail the 3 at the buzzer to send the Vail Christian girls basketball team into overtime against North Park on Friday.
Instead the shot just rimmed out and the Saints lost to the Wildcats, 37-34.
As nice as Hartley’s shot would have been, the Saints lost this as a team. They were 10-for-28 from the line, and that just doesn’t do it in any game, much less a close one.
Vail Christian (6-10) also went into an offensive funk in the second half. The Saints led 20-16 at the break and had only three field goals in the final 16 minutes of the game.
“We were up by six (sic) at the half and then only scored 14 points in the second half, and being 10-for-28 (from the line) goes into that,” Saints coach Doug Bruce said. “You can’t have halves like this in this league. The effort was there. We just couldn’t capitalize on our opportunities.”
Bella McCormick, Amie Hixon and Kristen Currey played their final home games for Vail Christian.
Both Vail Christian squads head to Kremmling today for games against West Grand.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.