McClave downs Saints in semis
BROOMFIELD – The plan worked in the first half. It did not in the second half.
And the Vail Christian boys basketball’s dream of a 1A state title died in the semifinals Friday afternoon with a 61-50 loss to McClave at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield.
Vail Christian will play Caliche today at 2 p.m. in the third-place game here.
“We put ourselves in position,” Saints coach Sheldon Kuhns said. “We just didn’t finish the deal.”
Meet Cody Canfield
McClave’s Cody Canfield was the focus of all of Vail Christian’s attention, and with good reason. The Cardinals senior is 6-feet-5 and one of the best players at this convention of Class 1A’s elite. After Vail Christian’s win Thursday over Fleming in the quarterfinals, the Saints watched McClave knock off Holly, 63-35, with Canfield dropping a whopping 36 points on that set of Wildcats.
With the Cardinals seemingly looking to No. 24 on every possession Thursday, the Saints decided to throw the kitchen sink at Canfield, essentially daring anyone else in Cardinals’ red to beat them. Saints senior Kevin Boselli was the primary defender Friday, but every time the ball went into Canfield, especially in the first half, two extra Vail Christian blue shirts seemed to be there as well.
“It tough. It was real tough,” Canfield said. “We had some guys come in and do some great things for us on the outside. That’s the toughest defensive scheme any team’s thrown at me all year long. It was hard.”
In the first half, Vail Christian held Canfield to six points and the teams were tied at 24 at intermission. In the third quarter, Canfield showed why he is a contender for the 1A Player of the Year Award with 11 of his game-high 22 points. With a major assist going to McClave sophomore guard Tayor Geisinger, the Cardinals outscored the Saints, 17-4, in that period as McClave pulled away.
The Cardinals started the second half with their guards attempting 3s to ease the Saints’ pressure on Canfield inside. Nonetheless, Canfield corralled one of those attempts and put it back for the first bucket of the third quarter.
Canfield went 3-for-4 from the line and then started to rampage in the paint with a layup for a 31-26 lead as well as two big blocks on Vail Christian offensive possessions.
With 3:05 left in the third, Geisinger delivered the help outside the Cardinals so dearly needed. The sophomore hit a 3 from the top of the arc and was fouled for a four-point play.
“Taylor came into the game and knocked some big, big shots for us,” Canfield said. “He hit that (four-point play) … in the third. I’m glad he went off.”
As if to put an exclamation point on things, Canfield dropped an 18-footer from outside just to show a bit of versatility.
“He is a handful to guard, but we expected that,” Kuhns said. “What we didn’t expect was the supporting cast to get as hot as they did. No. 11 (Geisinger) really hurt us. That’s a good basketball team.”
In the meantime, McClave also changed up defensively bringing up its guards on its perimeter defense to stymie the Saints.
“To be honest a lot of the reason we had to get out to them was because they were shooting too well,” McClave coach Shawn Randel said. “We just couldn’t give them any space at all. They dictated that we had to do that or we’d get beat.”
When the dust settled at the end of the third, McClave led Vail Christian, 41-28. The Cardinals extended their lead to as much as 15 points during the fourth quarter, however, the Saints (19-5) keep fighting to the bitter end. It didn’t help that Vail Christian had several key players in foul trouble.
“We dug too deep of a hole in that third quarter,” Kuhns said.
So the challenge for the Saints now is to shake off Friday afternoon’s loss and take on Caliche for a third place in Class 1A today at 2 p.m. As tough as Friday’s loss was, Vail Christian is still at the Final Four and completely off the map with regard to its history. Though these have been a heady last two weeks, this program had never advanced past the semifinals of the District 1 Tournament, much less make state until this season.
“There’s disappointment that we can’t go get the big trophy we were hoping to get,” Kuhns said. “At the same time, there’s still one more to play. Tomorrow’s still our championship.”