Vail Christian basketball falls just short |

Vail Christian basketball falls just short

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado

DELTA ” Forget that the Saints already had set the school record for wins. Forget that they were the No. 3 seed playing No. 1 Crested Butte, to whom they’d already lost twice this season. Forget that they were without one of their top players in Will Parker.

The Vail Christian boys basketball team forgot all those things and more heading into the district semifinals match Friday in Delta and fully believed they could win.

With less than two minutes to play, the Saints trailed, 39-36, and had a shot to cut the Titians’ lead to one.

“We were going to the line to shoot a 1-and-1,” Vail Christian coach Sheldon Kuhns said. “We missed the front end, and then they came down, hit a guy … who shot from the key and made it a five-point game. “From there it was a foul fest, and they went 8-for-8 from the line.”

Crested Butte went on to win, 49-38, and earn a spot at regionals.

“It was tight, and we played well, but, ultimately, we were a little off on our shooting,” Kuhns said. “But you know what, in athletics, you want to put yourself in a position to win the game, and we did that. I’m so proud of our team and the way they played all year.”

Vail Christian (14-7 overall) finished off its best season in school history, but Kuhns and company were still a bit upset with the loss.

“We all thought we had a legitimate chance to do something, so it kind of stinks that we fell short,” said Chase Gruber.

Gruber, along with fellow senior Jaryd Francis, spearheaded the offense in their final high school game, scoring 12 and 13, respectively.

“It was impressive,” Kuhns said. “In the fourth quarter they were saying, ‘Hey give me the ball, I’m going to score.’ And they did.”

Coming into Friday’s game, the Saints knew they would have to play a low-scoring match to hang with Crested Butte while at the same time matching the speed of the Titans.

“It was a lower-scoring game, but it wasn’t slow tempo,” Kuhns said. “It was two teams out there playing hard and playing good defense.”

The high-scoring Titans ran into a resilient Saints defense early and couldn’t crack the Vail Christian line with consistency all night.

“We made sure we got back to stop their transition,” Gruber said. “I don’t think they had more than two transition buckets all game. We were trying to confuse them with our defensive schemes. We wanted to use all our energy and not have to worry about what we had to do tomorrow.”

Crested Butte led all game but couldn’t pull away until the final minute.

“We had them frustrated,” Kuhns said. “They’d make a run, get up by six or eight, then we’d bring it back down to four or five.”

The Saints were looking to earn their first regional bid in school history.

“Last year in this game, we just went away and didn’t compete,” Kuhns said. “This year, we competed as hard as we could. We defined what we did in the past and took it to a whole different level. We’re so proud of our seniors and the way they played. All of our kids can hold their heads high.”

Gruber saw the team take a giant leap from his freshman year and is happy to be a part of the 14-win squad.

“I think it’s something we can always look back at and be proud of,” he said. “It’s something that no other Vail Christian team has come close to doing.”

The 1A Saints will move up to 2A next season.

“We’re excited because we have our new gym opening,” Kuhns said. “Basketball in our valley isn’t an easy sport, but we’ve got a good thing going here.”

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User