Saints girls lose Soroco showdown
OAK CREEK — Foiled again in Soroco.
Vail Christian girls basketball suffered its first loss of the season at Soroco, 55-41, on Thursday, Jan. 18, in Oak Creek.
The Saints led 23-13 at the half only to see their hopes of a signature win smothered by the Rams’ full-court press and the otherworldly performance of Soroco’s Chloe Veilleux, who finished the night with 24 points, 14 of which came during the fourth quarter.
“I think they dialed up the intensity of their press,” Saints coach Doug Bruce said. “They wore us down and that was evident in the fourth quarter in our rebounding, shooting and ball-handling. I thought we have an unbelievable effort.”
The Saints (10-1 overall and 4-1 in the 2A Slope) handled Soroco’s pressure during the first half. The wheels came off during the final 16 minutes.
Mattie Rossi started an 18-6 run during the third quarter with a lay-in and then Veilleux went to work with the next two buckets.
Vail Christian’s Brookelyn Kraft interrupted the run with two big 3-pointers, but it seemed that with the Rams’ defense swarming the court was tilting. The Saints’ Jesse Raitt had a 3-point play with 42 seconds left in the third quarter and finished the period with a buzzer-beater to tie it at 34.
The Rams (8-3 and 3-0) kept coming during the fourth as Veilleux, Rossi and Grace Olinger gave Soroco a 40-34 lead. Veilleux continued rampaging and Soroco took the win.
“We played the zone,” Bruce said. “We even had a box–and-1 on her but she’s good at kicking it off, driving through the zone. Everything was falling for her. But we needed a game like this — full-court press, physical, in-your face.”
That Soroco beat Paonia, 57-22 on Saturday, Jan. 13 should give the Saints some comfort. Vail Christian also doesn’t have much time to dwell on its first defeat. The Saints head to Meeker on Saturday, Jan. 20 for another stiff conference test.
“No one’s going through this league undefeated,” Bruce said. “I just told the girls we lost nothing tonight. We can’t do anything about this now. We’ve got to focus on Meeker.”
Boys hammer Rams
Vail Christian boys basketball was the hammer. Soroco was the nail.
The Saints won their 10th straight on Thursday, Jan. 18, beating the tar out of the Rams, 86-36. They could have put up 100, had they chosen.
Vail Christian (10-1, 6-0) scored 17 straight points during the first 2:05 of the game and never looked back. And while it was a pretty easy night, it’s a nice thing for the Saints to come to Oak Creek and beat one of their traditional rivals.
“We came out into the first quarter like a ball of fire,” Saints coach Sheldon Kuhns said. “I told them at halftime that were a buzz saw on both ends of the floor. We hit our shots, which always helps, but we were playing good defense.”
Do note for the record that Joseph Emmer took a charge with his team up 12-0 and was promptly rewarded with a bucket on the Saints’ next possession. Little things like that are the mark of a good team.
Another piece of the puzzle is defense, which was solid again. The Saints’ posts have been picking up some fouls in games they won handily last weekend. Thursday, they were fine.
Vail Christian had five players in double-digits — Sebastian Moritz (19), Bryan Trujillo (17), Alec Moritz (12), Emmer and Zach McKeever (10 each). Ethan Kuhns also had eight — and, yes, just one foul.
The season starts to get serious for Vail Christian as it enters the teeth of its 2A Slope slate. The Saints are at Meeker on Saturday, Jan. 20, and host Paonia on Friday, Jan. 26. These two games, as well as those that follow, will speak to how legitimate Vail Christian’s postseason aspirations are.
“The guys know what’s in front of them,” Sheldon Kuhns said. “Every league game is important, but some are bigger than others. Tonight was about Soroco. Now, it’s all about Meeker. It’s one game at a time now. Paonia, the postseason, that will all take care of itself.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.