Saints master the art of over-achieving
March 14, 2014
Ladies and gents, we had our best Sheldon Kuhns quote ever on Friday after the Vail Christian basketball team was knocked out of the state tournament.
It's not the coach's funniest. I could fill a book with those, including the B-roll I've accumulated during the years. (Sheldon, of course, would have to kill me.)
It's not his most profound, and, of course, when one thinks about profundity, one thinks Sheldon. (Too easy, sorry.)
Yet it was spot on — "This group far over-achieved than any other group we've had."
Boy, did the 2013-14 Saints over-achieve. Please don't take this the wrong way, people, but I don't know, if on paper, this year's team had the goods to go to the state tournament. Please remember that we're talking about "on paper," which doesn't mean squat because these Saints did make state, an achievement which should make everyone who suited up in Vail Christian blue walk tall.
As I was driving back from Loveland on Friday afternoon, I was comparing this year's team to last year's No, not running through the positions, like Gunnar Wilson vs. Ethan Ellsworth. It's about where the personnel for this year's team were last year at this time. The following is revealing.
He was a runner, one of the two Battle Mountain Ethans with Ethan Cotton. He ran a lot without the ball in the spring and the fall. Who even knew he could play point guard? As a sophomore, Pence and Danny Caballero shared the job early this season, and Pence won the job.
We saw excellent point guards at the state tournament, and Pence is a good one, too, but Hi-Plains and Norwood didn't have sophomores at the point. That's a tremendous accomplishment for Pence. It's also a tremendous accomplishment that I did not call him Hunter — Hunter Pence is the Giants' starting right fielder — at any point this season.
He was a golfer. Still plays. He went from being a tall kid on the bench last year to being one of the most feared offensive players in the 2A Western Slope this year. That's pretty ridiculous.
He learned from Robby Bowles the art of the 3, and Vail Christian all of a sudden had a balanced inside-outside offense. Disclaimer time: I do not know who is all-league. I know it's been voted on, but I do not know names. Kuhns didn't tell me anything off the record, but my bet is that double-aught went from bench-warmer to all-league selection in 365 days.
He was a golfer, too. I like golfers, though Parker and Cooper could kick my butt from here to Redlands Mesa and back. Gould got a few minutes here and there last year on the hardwood.
Gould turned into one of those gritty paint players who took the hard physical shot over and over in the paint, but still got the rebound and/or the put-back. And he had his biggest game of the season when it counted most. When Ellsworth went down in a heap during the regional game, Gould had 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Had Ellsworth sprained his ankle last year at regionals, life would have gone on. The Saints had Wilson, Bowles, Kevin Boselli and Zach Linder to rebound and score the points down low.
Ellsworth went from a nice complementary player to a game-changer in one year. Could he have put up 33 points against Soroco or had mammoth rebounding games last season? Nope.
Better known as a quarterback — in football — Currey had the most returning playing experience, especially at the 2013 state tourney. We knew he had talent. But Currey turned into an absolute beast this year. He always got the other's team's best offensive threat, a role shared last season by Wilson and Nigel Johnsen.
Currey did that and still found enough time to bull his way through the paint at both ends for rebounds and points.
Vail Christian started the season with three starters whose main experience was on junior varsity and two who had supporting roles on varsity. These five and the rest of the roster and the coaching staff came together and worked tirelessly to turn what should have been a rebuilding year into a repeat trip to state.
That's some serious over-achieving. Well done, guys.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.