Vail Christian boys defeat Lake County 69-56 at home |

Vail Christian boys defeat Lake County 69-56 at home

Saints improved to 4-2 in nonconference win

Jeffrey Hall goes for a layup over Brandon Gaines of Lake County in Thursday night’s 69-56 victory at Vail Christian.
Thomas Greene/Courtesy photo

If the Vail Christian Saints boys can figure out the third quarter, they’ll be unstoppable. As it is, they’re still figuring out how to win.

They improved to 4-2 on the year Thursday, defeating the Lake County Panthers 69-56 in a nonconference game at home on Thursday night. Hot shooting in the first half set them up for success, but a rough third period gave their opponents life and nearly caused a fourth-quarter collapse.

“We tend to be a bit of a streaky team,” coach Sheldon Kuhns admitted.

The Saints came out firing on all cylinders. The play which exemplified the home team’s brand of unselfish passing and stellar shooting was a beautiful touch pass from Jeffrey Hall to Quinn Downey, who drilled a 3-pointer to make it 8-2 early on. Downey poured in 10 points during the period. Making the extra pass and confidently pulling the trigger are part of the team’s DNA.

“Ball movement and hot shooting early in the game got us off to a great start,” Kuhns said.

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The Saints built an 18-6 lead en route to scoring 26 points in the first quarter alone. Even though the Panthers came ready to run, implementing a 1-3-1 half-court defense, they were helpless against the home team’s hot shooting.

The rest of the first half saw the Saints separate themselves with their disciplined brand of basketball. Their balanced scoring attack — Hall and Leo Rothenberg scored eight and nine first half points, respectively, to go along with Downey’s 10 and Theo Moritz’s five — and stout defense slowly wore the Panthers down. The quick strike offense wasn’t quite as potent, but the lead had increased to 43-20 at the end of two.

The third quarter has been the Saint’s cryptonite, and it was again on Thursday night.

“No excuses, but I think first game back from break, guys were tired,” Kuhns said about his team’s third-quarter play, which welcomed the visitors back into the game.

The Panthers crawled back, outscoring the Saints 15-10 during the period. The momentum bled into the fourth quarter. It fueled an 18-4 Panther run that culminated with a Brandon Gaines block and nifty pass from Steve Valdez to Gaines under the hoop to make it 55-46 with 4:40 remaining.

Playing with renewed vigor, the Panthers played aggressively on offense and defense, while the Saints were struggling to buy a basket.

“But, you know what, a little adversity isn’t a bad thing,” Kuhns said about the frustrations felt at that point in the contest. When Adrian Medina hit a baseline 3-pointer with 3:27 to go, the visiting crowd made their presence fully known. Thirty seconds later, Obed Tarango converted on a fast-break layup to make it 55-51. Suddenly, it was a game.

Quinn Downey made four straight free throws on account of a Cody Hall technical foul, bringing the Saints back into the driver’s seat, 59-51. Lake County never recovered, and the Saints went on a free throw-fueled 14-1 run before Gaines made another 3-pointer.

“I thought the guys battled, I thought they played with a heart of a champion, but we just got to clean a few things up,” Kuhns said about the victory, which he noted may have taken a few years off of his life in the final quarter.

The Saints travel to Rangely for a road contest Friday.

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