Ristow returns, and Vail Christian rolls
EDWARDS, Colorado ” Welcome back, Elliot Ristow.
The Vail Christian senior had been on the shelf since breaking his right femur in a football game against Maranatha Christian Sept. 19, 2008. Just when he thought he was back and ready for basketball season, he injured his right calf muscle Jan. 6 in practice, and thought he might be done.
After playing a few minutes Friday night at Rangely, Ristow is officially back, getting the start against Union Colony Preparatory School and seeing significant playing time Saturday. And the Saints celebrated with an easy 52-43 over the visiting Timber Wolves.
“I’m really enjoying it,” said Ristow, who had spent the season to date yelling encouragement from the bench. “I’m liking it a lot. It’s great to be back and playing with these guys. It is a little tough to watch. You just want to get out there and help your team as much as you can. “
“It’s awesome to have Elliot back,” Saints coach Sheldon Kuhns said. “I thought he played great. He’s a great case of a kid who loves high school sports. He works hard for four-and-a-half months just to get back on the court before the season’s over. We’re proud of him. He’s going to help us down the stretch.”
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While Ristow’s shooting touch was understandably off, he made his presence felt immediately with a nice dish to A.J. Burgess who canned a 3 just 34 seconds into the game. The Saints never looked back, outscoring the T-Wolves, 17-5, in the first quarter and building their lead to as much as 29-12 in the second.
Ristow wasn’t the only one dropping dimes. Larry Cavanaugh set up easy buckets for Chris Schmidt and Burgess. In between those two, Schmidt, best known for his play in the paint, sank a 17-footer as the Saints were rolling.
Not to be left out, point guard Will Parker spun off a beautiful no-look pass to Schmidt in the second quarter for another easy score.
Kuhns liked what he saw in the first half. He just wanted to see more of it. With his team involved in several close games so far in the 2A Slope, including a 54-51 overtime loss at Rangely Friday, he wanted to see charges put Union away Saturday night.
While the game was never in doubt, that didn’t happen.
“We came out with pretty good energy, played well and got ourselves a nice lead and then we decided cruise control was fine,” he said. “We’ve still got to break that. The guys are executing, playing good defense, but we’ve got to develop that killer instinct. It’s what gets us that extra point (against Rangely) to win that game.”
Schmidt led Vail Christian (8-6) with 17 points, while Burgess had 14. The Saints (4-2 in the Slope) have two big games next weekend. Vail Christian hosts Plateau Valley Friday and Hayden Saturday.
Lady Saints win
Two very big things happened for Vail Christian girls basketball Saturday night against Union Colony.
The Saints finally won at home in their new gym for the first time, and they did so by erasing a 26-17 halftime deficit on the way to a 42-36 victory.
“It was a breath-taking moment,” said Saints senior Michelle Disher who lead her team with 13 points and 12 rebounds. “I loved it.”
“Finally. Finally,” said a relived Doug Bruce, Vail Christian’s coach. “This was significant because of being down by nine and coming back. Those are things you have to learn.”
The Saints could not get anything going in the first half against the Timber Wolves. Bruce emphasized at halftime that his team needed to chip its way back into the game and that’s just what the Saints did. Sammy Francis sank a pair of free throws and Alexis Ellsworth knocked down an 18-footer to pull Vail Christian within five points at 27-22.
While Vail Christian’s defense held Union to just two free throws in the third, another layup from Ellsworth and two from Disher pulled the Saints even at 28 at the end of the third quarter. While Vail Christian struggled from the line for the most of the game, the Saints canned them when they needed them in the fourth.
Francis gave her team the lead with a pair with 5:24 left in the game at 32-31. Ellsworth, who finished with 10 points, hit on a 10-footer and the Saints were on their way to their fifth win of the season.
“That’s a huge step for us,” Disher said. “We used to be the team that you get down by five points, and you might as well be down by 40. I think it proved to ourselves that we can bring ourselves back.”
Vail Christian, which won only four games last year as a 1A school, hosts Plateau Valley and Hayden this weekend, followed by Nederland Feb. 10.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.