Vail Christian falls to Fowler, 59-41 | VailDaily.com

Vail Christian falls to Fowler, 59-41

Saints finish season 17-7

Vail Christian's E.J. Koller looks for a passing lane against Fowler on Saturday during the Class 2A Region 8 Tournament final on Saturday i Edwards. The visiting Grizzlies beat the Saints, 59-41.
Mort Mulliken | Special to the Daily

EDWARDS — There’s no sugar-coating it: Fowler was just a better basketball team.

The visiting Grizzlies used a 20-4 second quarter to beat Vail Christian, 59-41, on Saturday in the Class 2A Region 8 Tournament finals in Edwards. Fowler advanced to the State Eight in Loveland next weekend, while finishing the Saints’ season.

What does a coach say after the curtain comes down so suddenly?

“I love them. I’m proud of them,” Vail Christian coach Sheldon Kuhns said. “They fought for 23-whatever games it was and they fought for 32 minutes today. I’m just proud of them.”

The glass

Vail Christian (17-7) got off to a good start with two Jamison Lee layups, and an Alec Moritz 3 and layups by Zack McKeever and Moritz for an 11-8 first-quarter lead. What was troubling, though, is that Fowler was winning the battle in the paint, particularly on the offensive end. The Grizzlies just weren’t converting on their multiple opportunities.

They did during the second quarter. Ten of Fowler’s 20 second-quarter points came from layups or put-backs. Grizzlies senior Drew Egan and sophomore Val Leone both hit from beyond the arc, while teammate Quinton Flanscha had a steal and a layin.

“They’re good. They’re big. They’re long. They shoot. There are no weaknesses there.,” Kuhns said. “They hurt us on the glass. We knew it was going to be a problem. Our guys battled. Ultimately, we didn’t play as well as we wanted offensively or rebounding, but we just struggled to put the ball in the basket. I give them a lot of credit.”

Fowler senior Zane Denton appeared to have the assignment of covering Moritz. While Moritz did occasionally get lost in coverage and pop open for a 3, Denton held the junior to 13 points. Jamison Lee had 11 points for the Saints, while Leone led all scorers with 22.

Abba?

Though there were tears in the Saints’ locker room, it’s important to remember that any basketball season that ends in March is a good one. Vail Christian returned just one starter, McKeever, from last year’s team, which also lost in the regional final.

In what could have been a rebuilding year, the Saints reloaded, finished second in the 2A Slope behind DeBeque and won a 2A District title for the first time in school history. Along the way, the Saints toppled Meeker twice — once on the road and then in the district semifinals.

“It was a whole lot of fun playing with these boys,” McKeever said. “We did what no other team thought we could do. We went into the Meeker game (the first one) and said it was a proving game because no one thought we would be as good as we thought we could be. Just to play at home at regionals, win our district, it was a great time.”

By winning the District 5 Tournament last weekend, as McKeever mentioned, the Saints hosted regionals for the first time in school history. And the chemistry that Vail Christian showed on the court was honestly earned through a lot of hard work and some long bus rides.

“Songs on the bus,” McKeever said. “(Team manager) Roy (Valenzuela) would always bring his radio and we’d sing, ‘Dancing Queen’ and a bunch of other stupid songs on the bus. Kiernan (Davis) was in charge of the joke of the day during districts and he did a stupid knock-knock joke and we all started laughing because it was so dumb.”

Holly, Fowler, Denver Christian, Limon, Yuma, Byers, Mancos and Highland are this year’s 2A State Eight.