Saints’ offense struggles in 53-43 loss at Moffat County
Vail Christian falls to 0-2
Yes, the country is seemingly hopelessly divided on politics and experiencing a global pandemic, but here’s what’s really weird.
Two games in to the season, Vail Christian boys basketball is struggling on offense. Forget the politics and COVID, when the Saints can’t score, the end really might be here.
Class 3A Moffat County knocked off Vail Christian, 53-43, on Friday night up in Craig as the Saints fell to 0-2. Friday, nonetheless, was marked improvement in many places for Vail Christian, particularly on defense after Tuesday’s loss at Denver Christian Day School, but it is downright jarring to see the Saints struggling on offense.
This is the alma mater of of the Moritzes (Sebastian and Alec), Robbie Bowles, Parker Poage and many more. The traditional Saints’ problem at the beginning of the season is that they’re losing games, 80-70, because they aren’t playing defense and rebounding.
Now is probably a good time for some perspective. The Saints are being forced to grow up quickly in a shortened season. Hiccups happen during transitions from major graduation losses and the Saints have the hiccups now.
While it’s hard to see Vail Christian’s offense struggling all season — though short on varsity experience, the roster does have talent — there still needs to be a sense of urgency at 0-2 when the Saints come home to take on Rangely on Tuesday.
As for Friday’s game, the offense struggled because Moffat County just bullied the heck out of the Saints, who are usually on the smaller side. Vail Christian couldn’t run its set plays early against the Bulldogs and then moved to a spread where they put up 3s.
And all that pounding led to a ton of Vail Christian turnovers, an issue that must be conquered. Once in the spread, it was one of those nights where the Saints couldn’t hit the ocean from a boat. That happens. The Saints went roughly 3-for-a-ton from behind the arc and Vail Christian doesn’t win with just three 3s. On the few occasions during the first half, Vail Christian got it inside, it didn’t shoot, opting for another pass.
“One thing most people around the league (and Western Slope) know about Vail Christian the last 10 years is that we’re quick, uptempo and we shoot well,” Saints coach Sheldon Kuhns said. “The way to get us out of our game is to pound us. We didn’t have a good shooting game, but the pounding gets into our heads. They did that to Seb. They couldn’t stop him, so they bumped and bruised him. That’s Western Slope basketball.”
This is part of the learning process— both physical and mental. Getting either a few buckets inside or few 3’s early would have helped loosen the Bulldogs’ defense and that’s the balance the Saints will need as the season progresses.
The good news is that Vail Christian showed signs in the second half of offensive balance. In the third quarter, junior guard Jesse Gonzalez faked the perimeter shot, dribbled a few steps and then dished to Connor Downey down low for an easy basket.
“That’s where I was encouraged,” Kuhns said. “In the locker room, we talked about how we looked like Vail Christian for chunks of time tonight. That’s huge for this new group.”
For the record, Kuhns initially described his charges as young before terming them, “new.” Apparently, just like 2016-17, no one is allowed to call the Saints, “young.”
The new Saints did rally in the fourth. Down 40-26 at the end of three quarters, the Saints, behind a Jeffrey Hall 3, did get the game to 48-43 with 1:18 left in regulation.
After visiting the Front Range and scenic Craig this week, the Saints will have home games against Rangely on Tuesday.