Saints polish off DeBeque
EDWARDS, Colorado ” The are two things which people don’t like seeing made ” laws and sausages.
Add Vail Christian-DeBeque basketball to the list.
But by the time the Dragons’ Joey James threw the Saints’ Elliot Ristow to the ground like a rag doll, desperately trying to stop the clock, the result was a thing of beauty.
On Senior Night and the final varsity games that Vail Christian basketball will play at St. Clare, the Saints scored a sweep against their longtime Mountain League rivals. The boys squeaked by the Dragons, 63-57, preceded by a Lady Saints’ 34-31 victory.
Vail Christian senior Chase Gruber had to miss Senior Night because of an ankle injury, but he still started. Both teams lined up for a tip, which Jaryd Francis won, and then the refs blew the whistle, allowing Gruber to leave the court, accepting gracious handshakes from the Dragons.
And that’s pretty much where the pleasantries ended. After a second opening tip, it was a fast first quarter with the visitors leading, 21-20. Then, it turned into a whistle-filled slugfest.
Francis drew his third foul with 5:42 left in the second quarter and sat most of the third with his fourth. But unlike losses at home earlier this season to Crested Butte and Ouray, the Saints steadied the ship without Francis.
“It’s different guys each night, and that’s what a good team needs,” said Saints coach SheldonKuhns, whose team moved to 12-4 overall and 3-2 in the 1A Mountain League. “We weathered the storm. Earlier in the year, we didn’t weather the storm. We battled tonight. If they take us out of our game, we’re going to figure out a way to score.”
Just after Francis took his third foul, Chris Schmidt gave the Saints a 23-22 lead with a layup. With 3:49 left in the half, A.J. Burgess hit from downtown and the Saints had the lead for good.
While Francis led Vail Christian with 16 points, Burgess (15) and Schmidt (12) were huge for the Saints who built a 56-45 lead with 5:02 to go. The Dragons, though, rallied to within 61-57 with 27 seconds left before Burgess and Ristow iced the game with free throws.
“DeBeque is a scrappy team, but everything’s starting to click, no matter who we had in there,” said Gruber, who’s expected to return for games next weekend at Ouray and Ridgway. “Everyone’s stepping up and playing. I got to give them credit.”
Girls win fourth game
On Senior Night, the Vail Christian girls basketball team saluted not only teammates Hannah Morris and Nayeli Hernadez, but also said good bye to DeBeque’s Tia Lynch.
The Saints held their long-time nemesis to just 13 points, while a timely 3 from Tracy Salgado and solid play from their own seniors completed a season sweep of the Dragons.
“DeBeque had improved a lot and we knew Tia was going to be a handful, but our seniors were determined to stop her,” Saints coach Patrick Beaudine said. “Nayeli and Hannah and whoever else was out there played such great defense. We were in Tia’s face all game. Our seniors stepped up.”
The Saints trailed, 17-6, after the first period, but clawed back behind 12 points from Morris, eight from Michelle Disher and a season-high six from Hernandez.
DeBeque suited up only five players for the game and had to play the final quarter with just four players after one fouled out. Nevertheless, the Dragons led 29-28 when Maty Peckham picked up her “fifth” foul.
“I think that’s divine intervention because I had thought that Maty had five fouls,” Saints coach Patrick Beaudine said. “That’s why I put Tracy in the game. Tracy comes right off the bench and hits a 3-point shot and that got us over the hump.”
With 2:17 left, the Saints led 31-29, and then Morris struck from the line and the Hernandez iced it with a layup.
“It feels really good,” Hernandez said. “Both me and Hannah really wanted this. It’s the last time playing DeBeque in this gym.”
With the wins, the Saints closed out their tenure at St. Clare. Vail Christian basketball will be playing its home games at The Topper Center, aka the new gym on campus across the street.
It was also the final home appearance for Francis, Gruber, Juan Gonzalez, Bubba Murray, Morris and Hernandez.
“Nayeli’s a great example in life of how hard work pays off,” Beaudine said. “She’s only played two years of basketball. Last year, she started on the JV, and this year she started every game for us. Hannah Morris is a fighter. Hannah never gives up. Hannah keeps fighting and finds a way. We’re going to miss them a ton.”
“I’ve been here from the beginning, and each class adds another rung on the ladder and we keep building,” Kuhns said. “These guys did that. I’m proud of them.”
The Saints hit the road today to face Crested Butte.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.