Vail Christian beats Cowboys on Senior Night
EDWARDS – That’s what it’s supposed to look like.
Vail Christian senior Alexis Ellsworth kept running down the court Saturday against Plateau Valley for easy layups. She scored 13 points, leading Vail Christian to a 34-21 win over the Cowboys.
The Saints played superb defense, allowing a meager 21 points, with their press and good rebounding and that produced breakaways that Saints coach Doug Bruce likely so-studiously draws up.
“We started the game exactly the way we wanted,” Bruce said. “But for whatever reason in the first four minutes, we could not make a shot. We were getting the shots we wanted but we couldn’t make those shots.”
And therein lay the rub. Truth be told, Vail Christian probably should have ran the Cowboys out of the building on Senior Night for the ladies. But they’ll take the win.
“It feels good,” senior Tracy Salgado said. “We talked really well. We were off on our shots, but we worked well as a team. That’s what got us through. You’ve just got to put it behind you and keep trying.”
The Saints moved to 7-5 overall and 2-3 within the 2A Slope. Beating the Cowboys was of particular import since both of these schools along with North Park drop down to 1A for the postseason. The team with the best 2A Slope record gets the No. 1 seed in 1A districts, and Bruce and company want that slot.
In a related development, Vail Christian is at North Park Thursday.
The Saints used a 14-2 run in the second half to salt this one away. McKenzie O’Brien started it with a nifty jumper. Ashlyn Gruber chipped in a 3-point play and O’Brien made it 25-17 with a layup.
Salgado and Gruber hit back-to-back jumpers and then Ellsworth streaked down the court for an easy lay-in.
Since it was the final home game for the ladies, the Saints honored seniors Yahaira Ruiz, Ellsworth, Salgado and Dakota Francis. The Saints play their final seven games on the road.
“Coach seems to think we play better on the road than we do at home, so I hope he’s right,” Bruce said with assistant coach Todd Ellsworth standing nearby. “I don’t think it makes that much difference to our girls. It might be really good. Obviously when you’re playing in the district and the regional tournament, you’re not in your gym.
Plateau Valley runs past Saints
Was the glass half full or half empty for Vail Christian boys basketball in its 83-63 loss to Plateau Valley?
The Saints were brilliant in the first half, playing probably the most exciting half of the season in Eagle County, regardless of school-size. In the second half, they struggled mightily, especially in keeping up their tempo and on defense.
“(Plateau Valley) did some smart things defensively in the second half,” Saints coach Sheldon Kuhns said. “They switched up some of their guys. But again, it’s hard. If we’re not scoring, it’s hard to set up the press. We went through a long stretch of the third quarter where we didn’t score. We didn’t let it get too wide, but it was too much.
“We have the makings of a good team. We just have to put it together.”
Vail Christian is clearly struggling in getting late-returnees Granger Moch and, to a lesser extent, Nigel Johnson into the flow. The Saints are also having issues with opposing man-to-man defenses as opposed to zone defenses.
Vail Christian will torch a zone, which the did in the first half, but the word’s getting out, so expect more man-to-man as the season progresses.
Plateau Valley used the latter and was able to slow down the game in the third and fourth quarters, and the Saints obliged by going scoreless for four minutes in the third. The Saints’ lack of size also showed as the Cowboys got multiple baskets inside.
On the other side of the ledger, the first half was breathtaking in pace and play. The Saints were down 19-8 in the first quarter and erased that deficit in the blink of an eye. Robby Bowles hit two 3s, including one from the parking lot.
Gunnar Wilson, who probably had his best game of the year with 13 points, ended the first with a layup at the buzzer. Fernando Hernandez cranked a trey and then sophomore Austin Ellsworth made the play of the game, taking a hard foul, but still making the bucket. He fell to the floor and his head hit the court. Though it was nullified by a lane violation, Ellsworth still made the free throw despite being clearly woozy and having bitten his tongue during his fall.
The Saints (5-7) kept rolling with three big buckets from Zach Linder and a sweet reverse layup from Teller Emmer.
The boys are Hayden Tuesday and then both sets of teams go to North Park Thursday.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.