Vail Christian girls get first win over Paonia
EDWARDS — Down goes Paonia. Down goes Paonia.
Yes, the “Down goes Fraser” treatment applies as Vail Christian girls basketball recorded its first win against Paonia, 44-32, on Friday, Jan. 26 at the Wheeler Athletic Center in Edwards.
“It’s so exciting,” Saints senior Jesse Raitt said. “We’ve been working so hard as a team. I’m so proud of everyone.”
Not only was it a win over Paonia (8-5 overall and 4-2 in the Slope), but a victory in general was exactly what the doctor ordered after consecutive road losses to Soroco and Meeker.
“Extremely important,” Saints coach Doug Bruce said. “I was extremely nervous for the last two days. We practiced well.”
It’s OK, Coach. The ladies had it on Friday.
Friday night’s game was an early taste of playoff basketball — every possession important, points scarce and physical.
“It’s just like the NFL. The scores get lower as the season goes along,” Bruce said. “I told the girls that if we got anywhere near 45 points, we would probably be in good shape.”
And, Coach is Nostradamus.
The Saints (11-2, 5-2) mounted a 12-0 run during the end of the third and most of the fourth quarter to break this one open.
While it should be noted that Raitt (24 points) was superb — everything the leader of a team should be — Vail Christian got contributions from up and down the roster in assorted ways.
Raitt started the critical stretch with a layup. Mari Engleby followed with a big bucket and Grace McCurdy finished the third with a putback.
Up 32-26 to start the fourth, Raitt somehow weaved through traffic for a nifty layin, the first of two straight scores. Barbara O’Brien extended the lead to 38-26.
Just for a moment, Engleby, McCurdy and O’Brien are not the usual suspects when it comes to scoring, but they exemplify the team effort on Friday.
“It’s absolutely great,” Raitt said. “If everyone can score, it makes us a big threat. Everyone’s doing so well. I’m so proud to be their senior captain.”
Saints’ defense struggles in loss
The Vail Christian boys were trying to make it a historic sweep, but turnovers and a lack of second-half defense sent them to a 80-67 loss.
The Saints (10-3, 6-2) came out flat, and were down 13-6 late in the first quarter before getting a jolt from Moritz and Trujillo.
In this case, it was Alec Moritz jarring a 3 at the end of the first and Bryan Trujillo with two from downtown to start the second that seemed to wake up the Saints.
Showing the team’s depth, sophomore Jamison Lee’s 3 gave the Saints the lead for the time at 24-21.
Then Moritz got cooking — Sebastian, this time. He tore off a reverse layup and two 3s as the Saints put up a 28-point second quarter and led 37-28.
While the Saints seemed to have righted the ship, the bottom fell out during the second half as the Saints allowed a whopping 52 points during the final 16 minutes.
Despite a subpar performance, Vail Christian still had a chance in the fourth quarter. Zach McKeever drained a 3 in the fourth to tie it at 55, and another bomb from E.J. Kohler actually put the Saints ahead, 61-58, with 3:44 left. But Paonia ripped off the next 10 points to seal the win.
This marks the first bit of adversity for the Saints this season — a two game losing streak.
“I just told them, ‘We’re at a crossroads,’” Saints boys coach Sheldon Kuhns said. “’This can go one way or the other. Let’s choose the right path.’”
Both Saints teams head to DeBeque on Friday, Feb. 2 and then host Rangely on Saturday, Feb, 3.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.