Saints win Round 3 vs. Soroco; head to regionals
CEDAREDGE — OK, the bad news for Vail Christian boys basketball is that Paonia pounded the Saints, 70-41, on Friday night at the 2A District 5 Tournament. But the good news is that loss let Vail Christian play archrival, Soroco, again on Saturday.
The bad news is that the Saints nearly gave their coach and their fans a collective heart attack during said game. Yet, the really good news is that Vail Christian’s Cooper Gould sank two free throws with three seconds left to down the Rams, 42-41, and the boys are moving onto regionals next weekend.
“That’s nothing to shake a stick at,” Saints coach Sheldon Kuhns said for some reason.
OK on a serious note, Coach?
“We showed a lot of grit,” Kuhns said. “We were able to grind out a win and finish third in the 2A league in our first year. Coming into the season, if you had said that we would finish third behind Paonia and Meeker and were off to regionals, we would have said that’s a pretty good year.”
Get the putter
Postseason basketball isn’t pretty, and then there’s playing your rivals for third time in a season. The Saints and the Rams have butted heads on both the gridiron and the hardwood for many years and they know each other a little too well.
In a very physical game, which went down to the final ticks, Soroco’s Storm Veilleux hit a 3 and a ridiculous fall-away jumper giving the Rams a 41-40 lead.
The Saints had what would be the last possession, and Danny Caballero put up a shot, which he missed. But Gould had the rebound, and went up hard getting the foul.
This would not be Gould’s first pressure situation of his high school career. Yes, he had a game-winner against Shining Mountain early this season, but there’s also the golf.
The guy knows pressure, having gone four holes in a playoff during the 3A state golf tournament. Free throws are 15-footers. Gould sinks 15 footers with his Scotty Cameron putter.
“I just tried to tune out the crowd,” Gould said. “The Soroco fans were going crazy. I didn’t worry about the result, but focused on the process. Basically, in golf terms, I tried to put a good stroke on it.”
And the ball went right into the cup, er, basket twice. Game over.
While Caballero missed the shot in the final sequence, Caballero had a great game with a team-high 14 points, including four 3s and some clutch free-throw shooting of his own with 1:30 left in the game. Sug Ellsworth had a very good ho-hum game for himself with 13 points and 15 rebounds.
And now for the flowchart portion of Vail Christian basketball. As opposed to the days of 1A hoops when the Saints would play a win-and-in game for the state tournament, 2A regionals are a tournament.
District 5, the Western Slope, meets up with the District 3, the San Juan League, at Grand Junction High School next weekend. The Saints get the loser of the District 3 title game, which was Mancos, while the winner of Paonia-Meeker, the District 5 title game, faces the third seed out of District 3, Ridgway.
The Saints play at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, and hope to play on Saturday with a state berth on the line.
You will be quizzed on the details later.
In other action
The Vail Christian girls fell to Soroco, 50-45, on Saturday. That is the third time the Saints have lost to the Rams, the Gore League champions, by a whopping total of 13 points in those contests.
“Both teams played well,” Saints coach Beth Raitt said. “(Soroco) just shot their free throws better in the end. That was the difference.”
The Saints, nonetheless, advance to regionals next weekend at Grand Junction High School. And in a delightful twist of scheduling irony, they face Cedaredge … again. The Saints fell to those same Bruins on Friday night, 73-41.
“We’ll slow the game down, and not play at their speed,” Raitt said. “That will give us an opportunity to run our offense. We’re going to have top their outside shooting and rebound better.”
Meanwhile, Battle Mountain hockey bowed to Mountain Vista, 7-2, in the first round of the state playoffs on Friday night. The Huskies finished the season 10-9-1.
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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.