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Vail Christian basketball takes care of Paonia

Sticksel rallies Saints

Vail Christian's Alec Moritz goes up for two against Paonia. The Saints drubbed the Eagles 70-37 on Friday night.
Mort Mulliken | Special to the Daily

Vail Christian boys basketball’s 70-37 win over Paonia on Friday night was 1 year and 9 seconds in the making.

One year and 9 seconds later, Vail Christian can laugh about a little hometown tomfoolery with the clock in a 54-50 loss last season at Paonia.

“That was a fantastic second half, especially defensively,” Saints coach Sheldon Kuhns said, not taking the 9-second bait. “(Paonia) was very athletic. They made some nice shots. They surprised us with some of the 3s they made. I think we made some defensive adjustments with how to play their pick-and-roll, and that limited them in the second half.”

With the victory, the Saints earned a measure of revenge and, more importantly, the No. 1 seed in the Class 2A District 5 Tournament. That tourney starts a week from Tuesday for the Saints against the No. 8 seed, which could be Rangely, Hotchkiss, Soroco, West Grand or Hayden. (Yes, that really didn’t narrow it down.)

All that made for a happy Senior Night for Matthew Heiden, Ryan Downey, Hayden Sticksel, Jamison Lee, Chris Cappel, Alec Moritz and Kaleb Williams.

This crew entered the season with some question marks like, “Who the heck is going to rebound for this particularly pint-sized Saints team?” The answer to that has been a combination of teamwork and speed.

With very little size returning from last year’s 17-7 squad, the Saints are 14-2 overall so far in 2019-20 and 9-1 in the 2A Slope.

As Vail Christian has historically known, having an explosive wrecking ball of an offense always helps.

That was on display during the second half. Leading just 31-22 after 16 minutes, the Saints ripped off a 16-2 run in the first 5:55 of the third quarter.

Williams and Lee dropped 3s, while Sticksel just created havoc, slashing to the rim.

Sticksel’s man job is generally defense — he often gets the other team’s best offensive threat — but his explosiveness with the ball jump-started the Saints Friday night.

“It really helps when he’s attacking,” Kuhns said. “When he hits a couple of 3s, he really spreads the defense. He’s an unselfish player, not that the rest of the team isn’t. When he’s driving, he’s usually looking to dish. Tonight, the seas just parted and that was really good fun.”

Not to be left out, Alec Moritz had a 3-point play. Meanwhile, the defense, which looked a little soft on Friday night, particularly in regard to Paonia’s offensive rebounds, stepped up as Vinny Nowicki took a charge. In fairness to the defense, it allowed just five points during the third quarter and 15 points during the second half.

For those scoring at home, Moritz led the Saints with 17 points, while Sticksel had 16. Lee added another 11.

Vail Christian wraps the regular season with games today at North Park and next week at Soroco.

Eagles ground Saints

A 47-32 loss to Paonia Friday night did not diminish Senior Night for Vail Christian girls basketball.

The signs were made, the cupcakes distributed and the flowers presented. While it’s been a tough year on the court as the Saints are 5-12 and 2-7, the team has shared lots of fond memories.

The Saints led 18-16 against the Eagles after the first half but struggled to find an offensive rhythm during the final 16  minutes. Grace McCurdy led Vail Christian with 12 points.

The girls’ basketball class of 2020 at Vail Christian includes Talia Tyler, Abby Kuhns. Maddie Ellsworth, Lauren Hilty, Riley Layton, Rebecca Daly and Rebekah Gershenoff.


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