Vail Christian boys beat DeBeque, 58-53 |

Vail Christian boys beat DeBeque, 58-53

Ian CroppVail CO, Colorado
Vail Christian Boys1 KH 2-9-07

EDWARDS – So maybe Jaryd Francis was a bit rusty Friday night. After all, the Vail Christian cager – playing his first game in almost two weeks – only had nine points heading into the fourth quarter. But Francis caught fire in the last frame, squashing any notion of a slow return, and lifted his team to a 58-53 win over DeBeque in Edwards.

Francis dropped 15 points in the fourth, and was a clutch 7-for-9 from the line. But his biggest bucket may have been a dunk with just over three minutes to go.The Saints carried a 40-28 lead into the fourth, but DeBeque stormed back to cut Vail Christian’s lead to 44-42, and brought the ball down the court looking for the tying basket. At the three-point line, Francis stole the ball from a DeBeque guard, ran down the court and jammed the ball in for a bucket while taking a foul. Francis converted the free throw.”It was a close game, so we needed the points and the energy. It got the crowd up,” Francis said.And the home crowd stayed up for the rest of the game that saw the Dragons pull four more times. But Vail Christian kept scoring as well, and swept DeBeque for the first time in history, taking all three game this season. “That’s nice,” said Vail Christian coach Sheldon Kuhns. “They’ve beaten us a lot over the years. They battled and that forced us to battle.”We held on. We are a young, and still make some mistakes. But we came out and started fast.”

The Saints owned the first quarter, holding a 20-6 advantage after eight minutes.”We got out there and spread out the floor really quick,” Francis said. “Chase (Gruber) and AJ (Burgess) hit shots on the perimeter and we had our gameplan working like it should in the first half.” Will Parker was also back in the lineup for the Saints, providing a spark on both sides of the ball. And as always, Caleb Pearson quietly did just about everything right. Pearson missed a triple double by three blocks, collecting 17 points, 11 assists, seven blocks and four assists.Burgess finished with eight points and Gruber chipped in six.”Our whole starting five, and even guys coming off the bench – we’re playing as a team now,” Kuhns said. “That’s the main difference. We lost four in a row (earlier this season), and now we’ve won four in a row.” For a stretch in the fourth quarter when the Saints were missing some buckets and free throws, the Dragons’ Trace Graham was flawless from beyond the arc. In a matter of four possessions, Graham nailed three treys on three shots, and could have made a few more had he not fouled out with 2:48 left.

“When he fouled out, that was a big key to the game,” Kuhns said. Graham, who had a three in the first half, finished with a team-high 20. Even with Graham out of the game, the Dragons made a few clutch shots and kept pressuring the Saints. But Francis, to whom the Saints sent the ball nearly every possession, was up to the task at the line.”We missed a lot of free throws down the stretch, but that’s what I said when we called time – we just wanted to get the ball to Jaryd. And that’s what a good team needs, to be five guys out there playing as one, but you need to know who to go to at the right time.”Comeback falls shortThey produced on offense, and stifled their opponent on defense. And they were stellar from the line, too.

Still, the Vail Christian girls just didn’t have enough to complete a comeback against DeBeque in Friday’s 55-52 loss.With 6:23 to play, the Saints had fallen in a nine-point hole, but 1:04 later, the game was knotted back up.”The one thing about this game that as coaches we’re so psyched about is our girls executed our game plan, which was to be poised, and patient and wait for that payoff on offense,” said Saints’ coach Patrick Beaudine. “And we took them out of their man-to-man defense, and we’ve never been able to do that against DeBeque. They had to go zone against us, which is a great sign.”Following a pair of technical fouls to the Saints’ coaches that came after a disputed offensive foul on Vail Christian, the Dragons took a five-point lead. The Saints closed the gap to one twice, and had three chances for a game-tying three at the end.”I’ll tell you, it does rip you heart out to lose a game like that, because you only get a chance at home against DeBeque once a year,” Beaudine said.Leading the late-game charge for the Saints was Danielle Cavanaugh, who had a team-high 20 points, along with seven rebounds six assists and eight steals, despite picking up her fourth foul two minutes into the second half. Cavanaugh went to the bench for a little more than two minutes, then Beaudine put the senior back in.

“I definitely broke coaching convention by putting her back in so early,” Beaudine said. “But that’s the thing about her leadership as a senior – I trusted that she knew how to play and she kept us in the game.”Hannah Morris came up huge late in the game, converting on a pair of left-handed layups, and then hitting two free throws with four seconds left to bring her team within one point.”I didn’t think I was going to make them,” said Morris, who had 10 points. “But I had to do it for my seniors.”Senior Jill Shainholtz led a stingy Vail Christian defense.”We decided we wanted to take away (DeBeque’s) inside game, which is Jordan Rienks, and we told Jill that you’ve gotta step up big and shut her down, and Jill shut Jordan down the entire game.”Shainholtz, who picked out eight rebounds – five on offense – kept Rienks to seven points.

While the Saints were solid from the line, going 10-for-14, the Dragons made key free throws down the stretch, and were 17-for-23 on the game.Bianca Jensen had another big all-around game for the Saints, scoring 18, and forcing turnovers on the press.”Bianca has been stepping up big,” Beaudine said.The Saints host Crested Butte tonight, with the girls starting at 4 p.m. and the boys at 5:30 p.m.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or

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