OLATHE — Vail Christian’s Branden Currey yelled it in the locker room after the Saints’ huge 75-69 victory over Ouray on Friday night at districts in Olathe.
“The Curse of Friday is gone.”
And with that, we welcome you to a web extra of all the things we couldn’t get into the print edition for Saturday’s paper.
History is an important, yet touchy subject with any sports team one covers. History is vital as a fan. When the Red Sox won in 2004, it was dramatic, as Boston came from a 3-games-to-0 deficit against the hated Yankees. But the Red Sox winning the World Series was also a big deal because the S-a-o-w-h-k-s, or something like that, hadn’t won the Series since 1918. (It also explains why your sports editor always wears orange and black all the time. The Giants hadn’t won since 1954.)
But the guys who suit up in Vail Christian white, silver and blue currently don’t necessarily give a hoot about history. Ten years ago, the current Saints were 6-, 7- and 8-year-olds when coach Sheldon Kuhns would call in the result of the latest mournful Friday result at districts.
“Yes, it is me being burned,” Kuhns joked after Friday’s win.
The interesting thing is that Kuhns does try to incorporate the history of the program into the locker room at the Wheeler Athletic Center. On the wall right next to the doorway of the room are pictures of alumni basketball players from Kyle Morris to Caleb Pearson and Jaryd Francis. There’s also a copy of an old Vail Daily, with three features on Saints hoops written by Jake Rigdon back in 2001.
In that clip, Kuhns is profiled in a quick question-and-answer format. When asked about his family, Kuhns says he is married to Melita and they have a 1-year-old son named Ethan. That’s the Kuhns family. (Sorry, Abigail, you weren’t born yet and Ethan, now 14, is out of diapers.)
Kuhns and I know the Friday meltdown so well, while the Saints themselves are actually 2-for-2 now in the district semifinal round.
“Sometimes, you know too much,” Kuhns said. “The guys know the history but it is more significant for me and you. Branden said, ‘The Curse of Friday is gone,’ but they’re getting used to winning on Friday. They’re setting the stage for future teams to come (to districts), and win.”
• Again, it is nice to win districts, which the Saints will try to do today (Saturday) at 3:30 p.m. against Norwood, but making the final assures a team of going to regionals next weekend in Gunnison. The Saints are playing for seeding today against the Mavericks, but it’s not the win-or-go-home scenario of Friday against Ouray.
• As for Ouray, what a game. The Trojans had won six in row, coming into Friday night’s game. Of note, they had beaten both Dove Creek and Norwood, the teams on the other side of the bracket at this year’s district tournament, during the streak and knocked off 2A Ridgway.
Kuhns said that Ouray was one of the best teams the Saints, who face a lot of 2A schools during the regular season, had faced this year.
• Ouray’s Clayton Zimmerman was part of the problem. He had 17 points, including four 3s in the first half. Vail Christian moved to a triangle-and-two defense, starting in the second half. That meant that Currey got Zimmerman 1-on-1, while Ethan Pence took on Nate Fedel, Ouray’s other outside threat.
• Zimmerman had only seven in the second half, which was outstanding, but that move came at a price. With Zimmerman playing outside for most of the game, Currey wasn’t able to be in on the rebounding, which normally is one of the senior’s specialties. Thus, while he only had six points, major kudos to Cooper Gould who filled in for Currey on the glass.
• The triangle-and-two defense slowed Ouray for about a quarter, but that was enough for Vail Christian to make an overlooked 9-2 run in the opening minutes of the third. Currey started it with a lay-in. Then Gould and Ouray’s Caleb Preston went down for a lose ball. It was ruled a jump ball and the Saints had the possession arrow, but Preston elbowed Gould and got the technical foul.
Parker Poage, who had a quiet night by his standards with 14, sank both free throws from the tech, and then canned a 3 when Vail Christian got the ball on the restart. Currey got another bucket to complete the run, while Preston, Ouray’s big man, was sitting on the bench with three personal fouls for most of the rest of the period. Ouray was able to tie game, but never retook the lead afterward.
• And when it was tied all those times in the fourth, Vail Christian was magnificent from the line. When the game was on the line, the Saints were 13-for-15 from the stripe in the fourth. Currey clanked two late, but it was 75-69 and there were 10 seconds left, so they were 13-for-17 officially, but who cares?
“Clutch. Brandon, Sug (Ethan Ellsworth) and Ethan Pence. Just clutch,” Kuhns said.
• As for Sug, it was very funny to hear the Norwood/Ouray radio guys talk about the arch of Ellsworth’s shot. Yeah, it spooks me, too, but I’m not complaining after he hung 20 on Ouray.
Part of that scoring included Zimmerman tackling Ellsworth late. Does anyone else think that’s a bad idea? Sug likes to tackle back as football season showed. However, Ellsworth kept his composure and sank his two freebies because the Saints were knocking down free throws all night.
• And now for Kuhns’ take on what this win means for the rest of the postseason: “This win, you go back to the Soroco win in January and the Hotchkiss and the West Grand wins in February. Soroco was in overtime. West Grand was double overtime. Hotchkiss was at the buzzer. I know this is the wrong analogy, but tonight was the real cement to this team’s bonding. They believe they’re going to win. It’s just more glue.”
You know it’s a big win for Vail Christian when Kuhns is babbling. He’s excused for that.
• So Saturday’s/today’s game against Norwood is for a banner to hang in the gym and seeding for regional play with the two survivors of District 7. The two teams haven’t met since last year’s district final, a 42-32 win for the Saints. Vail Christian watched the Mavericks beat Dove Creek on Friday, and also saw them in December at the tournament in Edwards.
“It’s going to be a different game,” Kuhns said. “It’s not going be in the 70s. It’s probably going to be a slug-fest. Bring it on.”
KKXK radio out of Montrose is broadcasting the game and the station is streaming it if you’re not in Olathe.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.