Saints explode in third quarter, pound Rangely
EDWARDS – Every season, Vail Christian boys basketball is in a position to make a move in the postseason. The team needs to win its final game and have someone else lose so that the Saints have a good draw.
What is forgotten in all these scenarios is that conference wins in December count as much as they do in February. And thus, you have one of Sheldon Kuhns’ pregame talking points Saturday.
“We talked about it on the locker room,” Kuhns said. “We’ve got to start and not put ourselves behind the 8-ball. We had to come get this one.”
Done and done. Vail Christian won its league opener Saturday night in convincing fashion, dumping Rangely, 68-37.
“Our defense came out in second half,” Kuhns said. “I was proud of our offense, but we shut them down.”
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Want numbers? Rangely got the first bucket of the second half to close Vail Christian’s lead to 26-24. Then, the Saints went on a 25-0 run, which will generally do it. The visiting Panthers had all of six points in the second half before Kuhns flushed his bench.
Vail Christian is explosive, but in an encouraging sign, most of this run came from buckets inside, created by rebounding, turnovers from the defense and good passing to the paint.
This was the result of practice.
“We put on the bubbles,” said junior forward Gunnar Wilson of the plastic domes that cover the hoops in rebounding drills. “None of us like it, but it makes us better.”
Though not the leading scorer – Fernando Hernandez (19) – Wilson was a major beneficiary of it Saturday. He had 16 points as part of a very balanced attack. With a combined 19 points from Zach Linder, Branden Currey and Kevin Boselli, the Saints got 35 points from post players against the Panthers.
With the known exploits of their back court of Hernandez and Robby Bowles, the Saints would love to see this paint production continue.
The Saints looked like they were shot out of a cannon in the second half. Their first six field goals were all from inside, and only six of the 25 points during the run were from the perimeter.
That means Vail Christian’s defense was smothering Rangely and wiping the boards clean on defense.
“That’s one of the differences with this year’s group,” said Kuhns whose team is 3-2 overall and 1-0 in the 2A Slope. “We still can get up and down and score some points, but we’re playing good defense. … We’re defending, but defending doesn’t end until we have the ball. We’ve got to box out.”
Vail Christian stumbled out of the gate early, committing a plethora of turnovers. but pulled to within 13-11, courtesy of two 3s from Fernando Hernandez. While Vail Christian had to feel good to be close after that period, the Saints probably felt they should have been up by more in the second quarter. Vail Christian missed a ton of easy chances.
But all was fine by the third quarter when the Saints got rolling, even if they players didn’t know what kind of run they were having.
“Honestly, not really,” Wilson said. “We’re just playing our game and we look up at the scoreboard.”
Girls lose close one
There’s a reason that Vail Christian girls basketball coach Doug Bruce preaches defense. Last year, the Saints were 10-1 in games in which they held opponents to 40 or fewer points. (The one loss was a 40-30 defeat to Dove Creek at districts.)
The Saints defense continues to be solid, but there wasn’t enough offense in a 35-31 heartbreaker against Rangely Saturday.
“They played great. They played down to the wire,” Bruce said. “We made another comeback in the fourth quarter. We missed a free throw that (could have tied it up), but that’s going to happen to everybody. A lot of the time we were right where we wanted on the shot. We just couldn’t finish.”
The Saints offense went without a point for nearly an 8-minute-span between the second and third quarters, but were still tied with the Panthers at 24 at the end of the three.
The end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth was a critical turn of events. McKenzie O’Brien appeared to be hacked on a 3-point attempt at the end of the third, but didn’t get the call. Rangely’s Quincey Thacker made a jumper and got the foul call to start the fourth, for a 3-point play.
Nonetheless, the Saints (3-3) nearly pulled this one out. Down 32-28, Ashlyn Gruber got the steal and the layup with 2:15 left. O’Brien completed a jumper with 1:12 to go to close the deficit to 32-31. Gruber got the steal with 32 ticks left and was fouled, but the Panthers still had one foul to give before the bonus. Rangely’s defense forced a 5-second violation and that was it.
Both teams are off until Jan. 7 when they go to Meeker after the break.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.
Vail Christian boys 68, Rangely 37
Leading scorers: Fernando Hernandez 19, Gunnar Wilson 16, Zach Linder 8, Branden Currey 7.
Rangely 35, Vail Christian girls 31
McKenzie O’Brien 14, Ashlyn Gruber 13.