Vail Christian basketball gets by Rangely; VMS next |

Vail Christian basketball gets by Rangely; VMS next

Let's go to DeBeque

Vail Christian's Hayden Sticksel heads to the hole against Rangely on Tuesday. Vail Christian won to advance to the district semifinals.
Mort Mulliken | Special to the Daily

EDWARDS — So Vail Christian and the Vail Mountain School are going to DeBeque to play in Friday’s semifinals of the Class 2A District 5 Tournament.

Could they just play this one at Homestake Peak and save the gas? Not to get too political, but how about reducing that carbon footprint?

“That was pretty funny to hear,” Saints sophomore Connor Downey said when his team heard the news.

No. 1-seeded Vail Christian advanced to Friday’s semis with a functional 72-57 win over No. 8 Rangely Wednesday night in Edwards, while VMS scored a mild upset of Paonia, 42-37, in the 5-4 game in the bracket.

The Vails will meet on Friday in DeBeque at 4:30 p.m.

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Vail Christian’s Alec Moritz scores 17 points against Rangely and helps the Saints defeat the Panthers, 72-57, on Wednesday. (Mort Mulliken | Special to the Daily)

The Saints (16-3) did not look their best on Wednesday. Rangely’s Sydney Cole, all 6-foot-7-of him, had a terrific game with 24 points, causing matchup issues against the smaller Saints. Vail Christian also had a ton of good looks … But. Could. Not. Finish.

“(Rangely) did a good job of protecting the rim,” Saints coach Sheldon Kuhns said. “It’s playoff basketball. The refs swallowed their whistle. We wanted to go right at 55 (Cole) and get him in some foul trouble. We had to adjust what we were doing.”

Zipping the rock

One way to do get around a big guy is to pass. Vail Christian had some highlight-reel quality dimes. When the Big Three of Jamison Lee, Alec Moritz, and Hayden Sticksel weren’t scoring, they were dishing.

“They go up and then you’ve got the ball,” Downey said. “It catches you off guard.”

If it catches your own team off guard, well, the other team really has a hard time defending.

And there’s not much defending the 3 either. Tied at 38 during the third quarter, Alec Moritz hit two straight from beyond the arc as part of a 17-point night.

With 1:22 left in the third, Moritz fed Downey for two of his eight second-half points. Downey also did a nice job limiting Cole in the second half as the Saints switched from a man defense to a 2-3 zone.

Vail Christian sophomore Jesse Gonzales added a spectacular 3-point play on a beautiful pass from Lee.

Downey finished the third with a reverse layup for a 53-43 advantage.

District 5

By winning Tuesday, both Vail Christian and Vail Mountain punched their tickets to regionals as the top five teams from district advance.

Now the Saints and the Gore Rangers and Plateau Valley and Meeker, the other two semifinalists, are playing for seeding at regionals.

As the Saints know from last year, the district tournament winner automatically hosts a regional tournament, regardless of rating-percentage index. (Vail Christian was 12th before Tuesday’s play, while VMS was at No. 34.)

For Vail Christian, which has been down this road last season, coach Kuhns wants to see his team get tougher between the ears.

“We need to be mentally tougher and just understand that the whistle won’t blow as often during the postseason,” he said. “Postseason basketball is more of a possession-by-possession battle. You don’t go on 15-0 runs like in the regular season. You have to battle for 32 minutes.”

More playoffs

• The 4A state basketball tourney kicks off Wednesday, and Battle Mountain is home to take on Discovery Canyon at 5:30 p.m. in Edwards.

• It’s actually a playoff doubleheader for the Huskies as hockey hosts Cheyenne Mountain on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Dobson. The Huskies beat the Indians, 5-2, way back in December, for what that’s worth.

• Meanwhile, Eagle Valley basketball hung on to get a state invite. The Devils are at Widefield at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

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