Vail Christian heads to state for Fleming
Welcome to The Big Show, the Elite Eight, the one for all the marbles, the Granddaddy of them all – no, that’s the Rose Bowl – the big combo plate. (I’m running out of a cliches.)
It’s Vail Christian basketball vs. Fleming today at 11:45 a.m. at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield in the first round of the 1A state tournament.
OK, now that we’ve exhausted the cliches and removed the particulars, let’s please remember that this is just a basketball game. This might be a good time for a “Hoosiers Moment.” I think Vail Christian assistant coach Doug Bruce is better-suited to the role of Gene Hackman – sorry, Sheldon Kuhns.
Get that tape measure out at the arena and measure the distance from the hoop to the free-throw line. Do the same from the floor to the hoop. (Gunnar Wilson, put Austin Ellsworth on your shoulders.)
I bring this up for two reasons. First, our mighty Saints struggled a bit early at regionals against Deer Creek, getting into the flow. Yes, the stages keep getting bigger and bigger, but it is still a basketball game, and you have proved you know how to play the game.
The other thing to remember is that you guys aren’t the only newbies to the state tournament. The good news is that Fleming hasn’t been to the State Eight in the last four years either. Odds are the Wildcats are just as nervous as you are.
The team that gets over the nerves and has a good start probably wins, so let’s let it be Fleming.
And now for our keys to the game, brought to you by, well, me:
• Defense and rebounding and rebounding and defense. And play some more defense after that.
• Cool it in transition: I know you guys like to push it, and sometimes it works out gloriously with style. Take care of the ball. If the break is there and really open, go. If not, chill.
• Keep your cool.
Yep, same three things as for regionals and districts. This doesn’t change, people. This is how you win games. Keep on keeping on.
Other thoughts and bon mots:
• Seeding: Vail Christian is sixth. For those into karma, yep, Battle Mountain soccer got the same number and that ended well. The Huskies clearly got hosed by their seed. The Saints have not. One can quibble about maybe the Saints going as No. 5, but that’s about it.
Shining Mountain has been the No. 1 all year and beaten the Saints in January. McClave has handed Shining Mountain its only loss. Fleming crushed its league, the North Central, won districts and regionals. Caliche is the four-time defending champ in 1A. Vail Christian likely got bumped up a spot when Holly upset La Veta on Saturday.
• Format: The Saints will play at least two games in Broomfield, and, hopefully, three. If Vail Christian wins today, it faces the McClave-Holly winner Friday at 4 p.m. If the Saints lose today, they face the loser of the aforementioned game at 8:45 a.m. Let’s sleep in, people.
• Do it for volleyball: Fleming has been the menace of the Saints in the fall. Time for some payback. Cathy and Charlie Alexander, no knee-capping any Wildcats with tire irons.
• Back to actual basketball analysis: The funny state of Vail Christian basketball is that we’re now looking for a little more offense at state, while the defense is good. (Cue “The Twilight Zone Music.”) The good news on this front is we’re not building Rome in one day.
My vote, even though I don’t have one – why not, Sheldon? – is to cut down on the turnovers, make the shots you have and get Robby Bowles going early. Some elaboration. The Saints won, but turnovers were ugly Saturday. Fewer turnovers means more possessions. That would be better.
I liked the looks the Saints got last weekend. It was just a matter of calming down and making them. Bowles had a big 3 to start the second half, but had an off day offensively by his standards. (Good D, Robby.) It would be nice to get master Bowles popping early.
• Fleming’s leading scorer is Dustin Price (19.5 per game). Wilson and Nigel Johnsen, go get him.
• And to the Vail Christian fans, get down there and be loud. It was an excellent showing Saturday with the whiteout. Everyone needs to be there today. If volleyball is any indication, the entire metropolis of Fleming will be there.
• See you at the game.