Defense carries Saints to win against Rangely
EDWARDS — Vail Christian boys basketball had a week to think about giving up a whopping 52 points during the second half in a loss to Paonia last weekend.
The lesson was apparently learned.
The Saints used a smothering defense to beat Rangely, 64-47, knocking the 2A Slope-leading Panthers from the ranks of the unbeaten in league play.
“We made up our minds that we weren’t going to slack,” said Saints senior Zach McKeever, who was superb on the boards. “We were going to go 100 percent for balls, dive, rebound, contest every shot. It was just a mindset more than practice.”
Vail Christian (11-3, 7-2) did a terrific job, particularly early of denying Rangely lanes into the paint and was did a collective job on the glass.
“It was two-fold,” said Saints coach Sheldon Kuhns. “We stressed defense, but we also stressed not taking a shot so quickly. We still want to play uptempo, but we don’t need 100-plus possessions in a game, which puts an extra load on the defense.”
Saints’ strong defense
The fascinating stat of the game was that senior guards Bryan Trujillo and Sebastian Moritz combined for just 18 points, and the Saints still won easily. That speaks to the power of playing defense and the ability to win without a team’s biggest scoring threats going nuts.
It also speaks to the potential upside of a Saints team playing good defense and the general likelihood of Trujillo and/or Moritz scoring 15-20 points each per game.
With Joseph Emmer out with a concussion, sophomore Alec Moritz certainly made the most of his varsity start with a team-high 18 points. And those 18 were very nice, but Kuhns, keeping of the theme of the evening, was more impressed with the youngster’s defense.
“He played even better defense,” Kuhns said. “That (Patrick) Scoggins kid is one of the best athletes in the league. He made his life hard. In the second half, (Scoggins) got the line and made some deep 3s, but a shoutout to everyone.”
Rangely’s Scoggins ended up with 28 points for the Panthers (11-5, 8-1), but the Saints were in control all the way.
What’s more Vail Christian got significant minutes from guys like Alex Hilty, Hayden Sticksel, Jamison Lee and E.J. Kohler. Hilty finished with 11 points off the bench, another good omen.
Panthers shoot the lights out
Rangely couldn’t miss.
Vail Christian girls basketball didn’t play poor defense. The visiting Panthers (13-3 overall and 7-1 in the 2A Slope) just hit everything in a 68-50 win over the host Saints on Saturday.
“They shot the ball really well,” Saints coach Dug Bruce said. “I was talking with Jimmie (Mergelman), their coach, and she said they had a tough shooting night last ninght in Hotchkiss. They made up for it today.”
Rangely hit 10 3s, eight alone during the first half. The prime example came at the end of the first half. Vail Christian in an early 18-4 hole did what it needed to do — get it to within 10 points at 33-23, courtesy of a Maddie Ellsworth bucket.
The Saints (11-3, 5-3) would go into the half down by 10 and continue to chip away, except that Rangely’s Katelyn Brown chucked in a 3-pointer from beyond half court at the buzzer. Brown finished with 22 points, including six from downtown.
Rangely even wen 12-for-13 from the line, the lone miss coming during the fourth quarter after it was decided.
The frustration in the Saints’ camp is that two of their three losses — both within the Slope — have come against teams who have had “one of those nights.” The Saints led Soroco at the half last month before the Rams went nuts in the second half up in Oak Creek.
“I just told them that this is a bump in the road,” Bruce said. “Everything they want is still out there. We’ve got three league games left and we can still be home for the first game of districts. This wasn’t a devastating loss that ended everything. We’ve got to get after DeBeque and take care of business.”
Vail Christian did have some good signs. Brooklyn Kraft and Sarah Heredia seemed to get back on track offensively. Kraft had four treys for 12 points, while Heredia had 13 points. Both had been struggling as of late.
Jesse Raitt had 10, and Ellsworth, the fourth of the sixth in the clan to suit up for Vail Christian finished with nine.
Both Saints teams are at Debeque on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.