Vail Christian defeats Vail Mountain School 64-47
Both teams came into Tuesday's rivalry match with undefeated league records
Jack Pryor provided interior stability, Will Neumann shut down the opposing star, Theo Moritz was the spark and Quinn Downey eventually got his points. The result: Vail Christian rolled over Vail Mountain School 64-47 on Tuesday night in a matchup of two teams with undefeated Western Slope League records.
“First of all, it was a fantastic team win,” head coach Sheldon Kuhns remarked when asked about the play of his four leaders. “We moved the ball well. The guys played special inside of that.”
“I respect VMS — they’re a well-coached team,” said Moritz. “I think it was purely based on how we played tonight, how this win came about.”
Out of the gate, Spencer Hurd hurt the Saints, slashing for lay-ups en route to 11 first-half points. Vail Mountain School limited Vail Christian’s transition game and Hurd exploited the Saints pick-and-roll defense, something Kuhns noted as an element for improvement moving forward. Still, it was 11-8 Saints after one, and the home team held a 25-23 lead at half.
Downey, who didn’t score until 3:36 to go in the first quarter when he finally got to the free-throw line, saw several shots from deep just rim out. While he struggled to locate his stroke — he “only” scored eight first-half points — it was Pryor who battled for offensive rebounds and made a living on put-backs and free throw shooting going against Vail Mountain’s formidable 6-foot-5 post Christian Mills.
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“Jack Pryor down low was big,” Kuhns said. “That’s like a whole new level for us. We can just hurt you from all five spots on the floor tonight.”
Pryor finished with 19 points, going 5-for-5 from the line.
“Jack Pryor — oh my goodness,” Moritz said. “I’ve never seen that man shoot better. I love to see it from a junior — it’s good to see the younger guys doing better.”
In the second half, Will Nuemann — the Saints breakout second scoring option as of late — shut down Hurd, despite playing in foul trouble from early in the first quarter. Offensively, Moritz, whose pesky on-ball defense also never relented, started gaining confidence from deep.
“I knew I was cold to start, but I knew our team needed some buckets and that was my mentality going into the second half.”
Two of Moritz’s three second-half 3-pointers were from well-beyond the arc and came at times when it appeared VMS had finally found some traction.
“We knew they were a good 3-point shooting team and we prepared and game-planned for that and we expected them to make 3-pointers tonight,” VMS coach Caleb Florence said.
“And some of those were really good shots and some were defensive lapses on our side of the floor, but props to them. They played a really hard-fought game for 32 minutes and are an extremely well-coached squad. Tip your hat and move onto the next game.”
If Moritz was the spark plug, Downey, the team’s leading scorer at 21 points per game, was the closer. The old adage that a team’s star is going to get his points was proven true Tuesday night, as the senior nailed four of his six 3-pointers in the second half and dropped 11 points in the final quarter alone.
“Theo hit some big-time shots for us and so did Quinn,” Kuhns said.
“We’ve come a long way. At the beginning of the year, we were a lot more of a set-play team because we needed to be. Now it’s a lot more free-flowing and good basketball. Yeah, I’m pretty happy with the guys.”
With the win, it’s ninth-straight, Vail Christian improves to 12-2 overall and 7-0 in the league. Vail Mountain School drops to 8-7 and 5-1 in the league. Kuhns, who won his first 12 games against VMS, will retire with the taste of victory against his up valley rivals, who beat the Saints in the last three meetings. That is, unless the teams meet in the playoffs.
“That’s a good team,” he said. “And there’s a good chance we’ll see them down the road at districts.”