Saints pour it on early against Rams
Vail, CO ColoradoEDWARDS – As tiring as it may be to play two basketball games in less than 24 hours, the Vail Christian boy’s team doesn’t seem to mind. The 1A Saints took control of Saturday’s game against 2A Soroco in the first quarter and cruised to a 63-39 win in Edwards Saturday afternoon after losing to 3A Coal Ridge Friday night, 76-59.”It started last night in the second half,” said Vail Christian coach Sheldon Kuhns. “We really turned the corner. We were struggling up to that point of the season. We brought (last night’s momentum) into the first quarter today and we were the aggressor.”By the end of the first frame Saturday, Vail Christian had a 22-11 lead and then took a 33-21 advantage into the half, thanks to the hot hand of Jaryd Francis.Francis notched 19 of his game-high 26 points in the first 16 minutes.”We frustrated them – especially Jaryd – early because they couldn’t stop him,” Kuhns said. “They went to a box-and-1 (defense) for a little bit, and they kept switching up their defense, which was to our advantage.”And when Soroco started to cover Francis tighter, other players found the bucket.
“That opened Chase (Gruber) for some three’s, and spread out the floor for everyone,” Francis said.Gruber nailed two 3-pointers and had seven points on the game, while A.J. Burgess and Caleb Pearson each had 13.”We know Caleb and Jaryd are our go-to guys, but everyone contributed, and that’s what makes the difference,” Kuhns said. “The young guys stepped up.”Setting the paceAfter three early baskets in the second quarter, the Saints’ shooting percentage stood at just under 67, and Vail Christian set the tempo with its offense.”We’ve been stressing that because we’ve been a team that has fallen to other team’s tempos,” Francis said. In the third quarter, the Saints suffocated the Rams, allowing just seven points.”What we did differently in the second half was rebounded better,” Kuhns said. “We gave up too many offensive rebounds, especially for our size.”Francis led the team with eight boards, followed by Pearson (7), who played despite an ankle injury.”We had (Caleb) taped up and didn’t know if he was going to play today. He played a great game,” Kuhns said.
Pearson also had six steals and three blocks.Soroco’s Steven Meade had a team-high 16 points, followed by Bryan Spaeth (13), who sat out much of the second half because of foul trouble.Vail Christian’s Will Parker netted his first four varsity points, while teammate Bubba Murray also played well off the bench.”You saw (Will) coming of age, especially at the end of the game,” Kuhns said. “He’s knifing through instead of backing down. Bubba didn’t get in the stat book, but he gives us nice minutes and gives Jaryd a break.”The Saints, who have yet to play a 1A opponent, moved to 2-2 with the win.”It gives us so much more confidence for when we go back to 1A,” Francis said of playing teams from higher classes. “And if we try and make a postseason run, this is going to make sure that we know we can compete at the higher level.”Stopping the pressThe Vail Christian girls team took one half to settle in, but couldn’t erase a 15-point deficit in a 52-43 loss Saturday.”It all kind of boils down to the first half,” said Vail Christian coach Patrick Beaudine. “Sometimes we didn’t get back on defense, and I think some of that was fatigue from a hard-fought game last night (against Coal Ridge).”
Soroco pressured Vail Christian with a full-court press, and jumped out to a 22-8 lead before the Saints’ Danielle Cavanaugh nailed a 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter to cut the deficit to 11.After a defensive second quarter, the Rams held a 30-15 advantage, but the Saints picked up the scoring in the second half, in which they went 12-for-20 from the field.”It was an aggressive mentality,” Beaudine said. “We told them in one of the timeouts, ‘Girls, be ready to shoot – know you have the shot even when the ball is on the way.’ And they came out and were responding.”Vail Christian netted 17 points in the final frame, and got a nice start when Katie Russ nailed a 3-pointer, grabbed a steal and then sunk a field goal in the matter of a minute. The Saints hit their first three trey’s in the fourth, and were six-for-seven from the field before some late desperation shots.”It was fun to watch them get scared,” Cavanaugh said.Turning the tideLater in the game, Vail Christian solved Soroco’s press and then implemented one on the Rams.”We started hitting the gaps in their press because they weren’t playing man, so we started cutting and getting open passes,” Cavanaugh said.”With our full-court press, we finally got some turnovers from that, and it brought up our energy,” Beaudine said.Despite playing a game last night, the Saints played hard into the dying minutes.
“I’m not sure our kids realize how athletic they are,” Beaudine said. “They are learning how, if they can stay in the game, mentally and physically, anything can happen.”The Saints’ Hannah Morris had a game-high 15 points.”She shot really well and had a great second half,” Beaudine said.Cavanaugh had eight points, as well as several steals, rebounds and blocks. Freshman Bianca Jensen had six points and four rebounds.”Bianca as a freshman is coming out and doing some great things,” Beaudine said.Michelle Disher and Jill Shainholtz each had six rebounds for the Saints.Soroco spread out its scoring, with three players in double digits and had 27 steals as a team. Both the boys and girls are at the Plateau Valley tournament this weekend.”If we can solve turnover and rebounds, we can play with any team,” Beaudine said.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.