Vail Christian boys advance to district semis; earn state berth
And that's win No. 200 for Kuhns
EDWARDS — Boring, perfunctory, tidy.
When you’re a No. 1 seed in a tournament, boring, perfunctory and tidy are good words. Vail Christian boys basketball, having earned the No. 1 seed in the District 5 Tournament for the first time, just matter-of-factly took care of business on Tuesday night at the Wheeler Athletic Center, dispatching Rangely, 78-40, during the district quarterfinals.
When you have the No. 1 on your collective back, you want no part of Virginia-University of Maryland-Baltimore County. By advancing to the district semifinals, the Saints punched their ticket to the 2A state tournament. The next job is to win the District 5 Tournament in DeBeque this weekend to earn home court for the first two rounds of state.
The Saints take on Meeker on Friday at 4:30 p.m. in Colbran.
And in the keeping-it-boring theme, Tuesday’s victory gave Saints coach Sheldon Kuhns the 200th win of his career, so it was a jolly evening for all involved.
“It’s special,” Kuhns said. “I got a lot of texts from the alumni, saying congratulations. Full circle, though, we got a playoff win tonight. That’s the most important thing for all the guys who went before when it was so hard to get there. I’m not sentimental, but it chokes me up a little. I’m more happy for the guys, though.”
Kuhns being Kuhns also wanted shoutouts to his former and current assistants, so cheers to Rick Pearson, Todd Ellsworth, Doug Bruce, Patrick Beaudine and J.C. Moritz.
The Saints (14-6) started with slick passing Tommy O’Neil to Alec Moritz and E.J. Koller to O’Neil. Zack McKeever knocked down a few 3s. Moritz ended the first with a 3 and Vail Christian led 19-9 after one quarter and never looked back.
The following is nitpicking, but the postseason is a time for such. Coach Kuhns probably would like to have seen stouter defense during the second quarter and an earlier putting away of the Panthers. Against high-level opponents — say, like Meeker — when you have an advantage, press it.
“We talked about how we can no longer have an off quarter,” Kuhns said. “We can have an off possession, but no more off quarters for the rest of the season. Big picture, that was one of our more complete games of the season.”
In fairness, the Saints did put down the hammer during the third quarter and capped it with a 3-point shooting exhibition from Hayden Sticksel, who lit up the crowd and the Vail Christian bench.
Saints girls fall to Panthers
Vail Christian girls basketball will have to take the long way to the state tournament after falling to Rangely, 54-44, during the District 5 Tournament quarterfinals Tuesday night in Edwards.
The visiting Panthers (10-10) used a 13-0 run during the second quarter to avenge a 40-34 loss to the Saints here back in January.
District 5 gets five spots in the state tournament, and Rangely just clinched one of those with its win by advancing to the tourney’s semifinals. Vail Christian (10-10) needs to win its next two games to finish fifth in the district for the final berth.
The Saints play in DeBeque on Thursday at 3 p.m. against the loser of the Meeker-West Grand, which will likely be the Mustangs. (Meeker was 18-1 entering its district quarterfinal on Tuesday against 5-15 West Grand.)
Vail Christian trailed only 13-11 after the first quarter during Round 2 against Rangely. The Saints’ Grace McCurdy evened it at 13 with a layup to start the second quarter before the Panthers took control of the game. Rangely’s Skylar Thacker hit two 3s in a row, and her second trey was in large credit to tremendous offensive rebounding by teammate Hannah Wilke.
After some free throws, Mary Scoggins and Alanna Wiley capped the run with layups.
Zoey Barela led the Saints with 14 points, while McCurdy had 10.
“With West Grand, we have to make our layups, our gimme shots,” Saints coach Cynthia Robinson said. “We were 8-for-9 at the free-throw line. We had just eight turnovers. Our defense played pretty well. We just need to throw it all out there. We need that intensity that we had in the second half.”