Vail Mountain, Vail Christian see seasons end | VailDaily.com
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Vail Mountain, Vail Christian see seasons end

Gore Rangers make Sweet 16

Postseason basketball awards Class 4A Boys All-league Liam Mckenny, Battle Mountain Honorable mention Baker Gentry, Battle Mountain Owen Ruotolo, Battle Mountain Girls All-league Honorable mention Kaitlin Medina, Eagle Valley Class 2A Boys All-league Zach McKeever, Vail Christian Alec Moritz, Vail Christian Garrett Sampson, Vail Mountain Honorable mention Jamison Lee, Vail Christian E.J. Koller, Vail Christian Western Slope Coach of the Year Sheldon Kuhns, Vail Christian CHSAA All-State Game Zach McKeever, Vail Christian Girls All-league Sarah Heredia, Vail Christian Honorable mention Abby Kuhns, Vail Christian    

As much as Vail Mountain School and Vail Christian are rivals in basketball, they share a common experience — the Region 8 woodchipper.

The Gore Rangers saw their magnificent season come to an end Saturday afternoon in Idaho Springs in a 67-35 loss to Yuma during the Class 2A Regional 8 Tournament final.

It takes nothing away from a breakthrough season for the Gore Rangers, who finished the season 13-10 and get to put “District 5 Tournament Champions” on a banner in the gym for the first time in school history.

It’s just that there’s a little flaw in the system for seeding teams in the 2A playoffs that local teams have experienced in the last two years.

VMS proudly went through districts beating Paonia, Vail Christian and Meeker last week to win the district title. The big prize of winning districts is that a school (in theory) hosts a regional tournament and is seeded in the top eight, regardless of its ratings-percentage index.

So despite being 27th in the RPI, the Gore Rangers were No. 8 in the bracket. After beating Clear Creek, 50-47, on Friday night to advance to the round of 16, aka the Region 8 final, No. 8 VMS advanced to play the No. 9-ranked team, or the highest-ranked team in the state in 2A that didn’t win a district tournament last weekend.

In other words, a really good team like the Yuma Indians, who, at 19-3, went undefeated through the Lower Platte League and got upset at districts.

Did we mention the Indians were the two-time state champions? (One does have to have a sense of Yuma about this.)

And that’s how an 8-9-seed game turns into 67-35 rout. Again, there’s no shame: No.  9 Fowler beat No. 8 Vail Christian last season in this round, 59-41, and the former went on to take third at the 2A state tournament.

Vail Mountain not only made the regional tournament for the first time in school history but had to deal with some adversity along the way.

The school was meant to host the tournament, but according to VMS athletic director Bobby Ecker, it was moved to Idaho Springs. While the Gore Rangers still wore home white and were accompanied by hearty orange-clad fans, VMS ended up playing Clear Creek in its home gym.

The Gore Rangers trailed at the half, but rallied behind Becker Dienst’s play at the point  — he also had 12 points. Meanwhile, Devin Yarde had 17 and  Cole Pattison a dozen.

“It was a hard-fought win,” VMS coach Caleb Florence said. “We were going into a hostile environment and had the emotional toll of having homecourt taken away from us. That was not ideal. It was a good mental test for us.”

This could be a good time to point out that VMS graduates only four seniors: Jagger Fugate, Nick Ebner, Zach Stockton and Matt Biggers.

VMS will be back and, hopefully, avoiding the 8-9 game in regionals.

Saints fall in first round

Vail Christian basketball finished 17-5, got eliminated in the first round of regionals, and it was a bit of a disappointing ending for the team.

It’s been a pretty good decade for the Saints when that’s the case. 

The Saints bowed out during the first round of Region 1 Tournament to the Dawson School, 55-48, in Limon on Friday night.

Vail Christian did not have a good night from behind the arc — 7-for-47 — and a once-promising season ended.

Vail Christian lost three of its last five games — Soroco in the regular-season finale, Vail Mountain in districts and Dawson  — adding to the difficult ending.

And herein lies the lesson for both of the local 2A squads. Growth comes in fits and spurts. Just as VMS made a huge step this year by busting through the district tournament, seasons build upon previous ones, and eventually, a program gets to a point where it can be frustrated by a season ending at 17-5.

Ten years ago, Vail Christian would have held a parade up and down Highway 6 for a 17-5 season. In 2010 and 2011 and the Saints were hovering around .500 and got eliminated in districts by Hayden and Ouray.

Ah, the memories.

Despite the season-ending earlier than hoped, the latest edition of Saints — seniors Matthew Heiden, Ryan Downey, Hayden Sticksel, Jamison Lee, Chris Cappel and Alec Moritz — definitely made their imprint.

Despite two years of heavy graduation losses, these guys went 34-12 as upperclassmen. Again, Saints coach Sheldon Kuhns might have given up his firstborn for two seasons like that, except that a) his better half, Melita, would have allowed it, and b) Ethan was very useful as a rebounder.

And lest anyone think the Saints are done with Moritzes, the torch is passed to Theo, Class of 2023.


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