Saints sweep past West Grand basketball | VailDaily.com

Saints sweep past West Grand basketball

Vail Christian's Coco Spangler (24) jumps on a loose ball against West Grand in Edwards on Friday. The Saints raced past the Mustang, 69-63, to win their Gore League opener.
Kevin S. Boyes |

EDWARDS — Vail Christian girls basketball led West Grand, 32-26, at the half on Friday at the Wheeler Athletic Center in Edwards.

We repeat — at the half.

This wasn’t the boys’ game, really.

Vail Christian ladies are playing an up-tempo brand of hoops this season, and it resulted in a 69-63 victory over the Mustangs in the league opener.

That’s not a misprint. Vail Christian scored 69.

“We had 40 at halftime in Aspen,” Saints coach Doug Bruce said. “I think that’s the difference with this team. They can score points.”

Yes, the Saints would still like to hold teams under 40 points, but Bruce gave the Mustangs their due.

“That’s a pretty good basketball team there,” he said. “They had pretty good shooters there.”

The Saints fell behind 8-0 in the opening minutes, and, in past years, that usually would have been the ballgame. With freshman Jessie Raitt at the point and a familiar cast of characters who cut their teeth as underclassmen last season, however, Vail Christian erased that deficit by the end the first quarter with a highlight reel pass-and-score from Remy Beveridge to Jessie Hartley for an 18-18 tie.

Less one think Bruce has fallen off his Kansas City-themed recliner and de-emphasized defense, it’s actually defense which starts this flying circus — stops and rebounds on West Grand’s end along with a healthy dose of the press.

Speaking of the press, the Saints (5-2 overall and 1-0 in the Gore League) showed the ability, by and large, to break the press, as well, which led to several easy buckets on the other end.

While the breakneck pace makes for fun spectating, the Saints are still trying to figure out the fine distinction between playing quickly and frenetically. Vail Christian led 51-39 — 51 points? — but likely should have had a bigger lead had it not been for a ton of turnovers.

“We had to slow down,” Bruce said. “We were acting like we were the team down by 10. I just talked with (Jessie) and told her, ‘You’ll learn that you’ve got to have different speeds. You go fast when you want to go fast and slow it down when you want to slow it down.’ Right now, she’s only got one gear, but it’s a pretty good gear.”

Things got dicey late as West Grand closed to 55-50 with 5:07 left in regulation. With apologies to the late Stuart Scott, the Saints were as cool as the other side of the pillow when it counted. Though the team struggled on the whole from the line, Beveridge and Hartley were 6-for-6 from the stripe during one stretch.

West Grand got two 3s from Gabby Willson. Clinging to a 61-60 lead, Raitt, again a freshman, impressively put down two from the free-throw line for a 63-60 advantage. The Mustang’s Kayla DeSanti went 1-for-2 from the stripe with 29 seconds to go.

But the Saints had one press-break left in them and a Raitt layup plus the foul pushed Vail Christian up 66-61.

Raitt ended the evening with 23 points, while Hartley had 12. Beveridge finished with 10 and Kass Basker had nine.

Boys hang on too

The Saints boys basketball team had a pretty good alumni team in the stands, but the current crew did just fine against West Grand.

(On a side note, Austin Ellsworth has longer hair than Parker Poage. It’s a world gone mad, people.)

The 2014-15 Vail Christian gents opened league play with a 63-59 victory against the Mustangs

West Grand was within seven at 43-36 late in the third quarter, when Logan Raitt dialed up a left-handed layup off the glass. Sug Ellsworth finished the quarter with two strong layups underneath, and the Saints had a 50-36 lead after three quarters.

The Saints and Mustangs have developed a good rivalry over the years, and the latter did not go away.

Leading just 55-50 with 3:11 left to play, Cooper Gould hit Ethan Pence for a backdoor layup that kept it a two-possession game. Danny Caballero hit a critical layup down the stretch, but the Mustangs’ Kody Ekren had another 3 and West Grand was within 59-56 with 55 seconds to play.

The Mustangs’ Ivan Mendoza missed a the front end of a 1-and-1, and the Mustangs had to foul. Pence was clutch with two freebies with 23 seconds to go for a 61-56 lead. For good measure, Pence sank two more with 10 seconds left.

Ellsworth led the Saints (5-2, 1-0) with 18 points, followed by Pence, the free-throw hero, with 15.

Both Saints teams head to Hayden today.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.