Vail Christian edges Eagle Valley in thriller
Last year, Eagle Valley boys basketball started with a 17-0 run against Vail Christian, and won, 62-55.
This year, the Devils only got out to a 12-0 lead, and the Saints rallied for a 59-56 win.
With his team trailing 56-55, Vail Christian senior Alec Moritz calmly sank two free throws with 20 seconds left.
The Saints’ defense held on the ensuing possession and Vail Christian’s Kaleb Williams got enough of a rebound to force a jump ball.
The Saints had the possession arrow. After the timeout, Moritz inbounded the ball to fellow senior Jamison Lee, who was immediately fouled.
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With 5.5 seconds left, Lee sank both from the stripe. Eagle Valley hurried the ball down and Branden Vigil just missed a 3 that would have sent the game into overtime.
“Oh man, I have no voice left,” Saints coach Sheldon Kuhns said. “That was a blast to coach. This team, we have endless energy and we’re deep. We started out down 12-0 and it didn’t phase us.”
It might have phased the Saints faithful. Vail Christian made just one field goal in the first quarter — a Moritz 3-pointer — and was still tied at 14 with the Devils.
Eagle Valley played well early, but gave away too many fouls during the first half. Consider that a combination of adrenaline — it was Devils’ opener — and the youth of the roster.
“These guys have a ton of heart and hustle,” Devils coach Justin Brandt said. “Those are the hardest things to coach, so we’re going to be fine.”
Eagle Valley got a great night from senior Keegan Garvey, who had a team-high 19 points. Speaking of seniors, Moritz had 24 and Lee 23 for the Saints.
While those two were the headliners, the Saints got a bunch of contributions from up and down the roster during their comeback. With Hayden Sticksel in foul trouble, sophomore Jessie Gonzalez contributed some big minutes off the bench and three big free throws to start the fourth quarter. Vail Christian tied it at 48 with 3:35 left in the game, only to have Garvey drop in another 3.
Lee ripped off five straight points giving his team a 55-51 lead. Eagle Valley responded with a Garvey three and a bucket from Carlos Sanchez to gave his team a 56-55 lead with 52 seconds remaining.
While the Saints are excited about a 3-0 start, and the Devils doubtless disappointed by losing their opener, it’s early December and there’s a lot of basketball to go.
Eagle Valley heads to Steamboat, starting Thursday for a tournament, while the Saints are at Aspen on Dec. 19.