Vail valley hoops: Surprises abound in Round 2
EDWARDS – Ho-hum, Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley played to a split Saturday in the second meetings of the season.
But it wasn’t the usual split. It was the Huskies girls defeating the Devils, 50-41, for Battle Mountain’s first 4A Slope win since Jan. 22, 2008. And there was much rejoicing.
While the drought for Eagle Valley boys basketball wasn’t as severe, the Devils delivered some sweet payback, edging the Huskies, 61-60, for their first victory over their archrivals since 2009. Battle Mountain had won three in a row on the hardwood – five, if you count football – and so there was much rejoicing for Eagle Valley, as well.
By virtue of a coin flip and nothing more, we start with the girls:
Huskies 50, Devils 41
Battle Mountain girls basketball led most of the game Saturday against Eagle Valley, but it wasn’t until there were about 45 seconds left that the Huskies’ crowd seemed to acknowledge collectively that, “This is really happening.”
They stood as Battle Mountain coach Andrew Schmid took out his two seniors, Keely Graskamp and Kenia Olivas, with hugs all around.
“I don’t have words to say it,” Olivas said. “This is the best game ever.”
The Huskies, likely one of the happiest 2-19 basketball teams in the country, have been through a lot in the past three years. They’ve been on the wrong end of some scores they’ve hopefully repressed.
And so all involved were pretty giddy after Saturday’s win. Assistant coach Bill Carty planted a big, fat smooch on the left cheek of head coach Andrew Schmid. Andria Schmid, the head coach’s better half, promptly declared that their son, who is due in June, will be named Kenia, who had a team-high 17 points.
“I’m just so happy for them,” Andrew Schmid said. “… They brought it. They’ve been playing well all season. They deserve it because they’ve worked so hard and improved so much. They just haven’t got that win that they deserved. This was the icing on the cake.”
The Huskies, who broke a 58-game skid in December with a win over Lake County, played tenacious defense and that opened up the floor for the offense. Battle Mountain jumped out to a 16-4 lead after one. The Devils winnowed that down to 10 points midway through the third. Battle Mountain’s Mariana Garcia, who ended up with 11 points, had a layup, and Graskamp banked a 3 off the boards to up the lead back to 15.
Olivas picked up her fourth foul with 1:47 left in the third but played on, steadying the Huskies down the stretch. But the Devils were in major foul trouble, as well, and Battle Mountain capitalized with 10-for-15 shooting from the line in the final period.
“I just tried to play smart,” Olivas said. “It was scary. I just tried to play hard and give it my all. It’s been hard these four years. This was our game.”
For Eagle Valley, which won the first meeting between the two teams, 45-24, down in Gypsum last month, Saturday was a bitter pill.
“It’s life. Sometimes, you just don’t have a good day and the other team has a good day,” said Eagle Valley coach Sam Bartlett, whose team’s record fell to 5-15. “Battle Mountain played very well today. I was very impressed with their energy. They’ve improved a lot. Our cohesion doesn’t seem to be there. It’s a culmination of factors.”
Devils 61, Huskies 60
OK, “Sabo stole the ball” doesn’t work as well as Celtics announcer Johnny Most’s call involving John Havlicek.
Eagle Valley boys basketball will take it nonetheless. The Devils exorcised the demons of three consecutive tight losses to Battle Mountain, as well as several other close calls in league play this year, when junior Jeremy Sabo snagged an inbound pass from Battle Mountain’s Jake Engle intended for Chris Duran with 1.2 seconds left in Saturday’s game.
With that clutch defensive play – one seemingly elusive all season – the Devils hopped, skipped and jumped out of Edwards with a 61-60 victory over their archrivals.
“God, It feels good,” Eagle Valley senior Zeth Ramsey said. “That’s all I’ve got to say. It feels good.”
Not only did the Eagle Valley boys get a much-cherished win over the Huskies, but they also likely ended Battle Mountain’s playoff hopes.
“We had a a great season,” said Huskies coach Tom Padilla, whose team fell to 11-10 and finishes at Palisade on Friday. “Give Eagle credit. They wanted it more than my kids this time. That’s all it is.”
Pretty much everyone in Edwards assumed the Huskies would try to find Cody Hervert with 1.2 seconds left. Devils coach Brent McConaghy had Ramsey and 6-foot-6 body blocking the pass from Engle, and Sam Lounsberry covering Hervert but still thought it was going to Duran or LyBarger.
“He was nervous, and he threw it into my hands,” Sabo said of Engle. “It’s a pretty good feeling.”
As has become the trend in this series, Eagle Valley jumped out to a 17-4 lead in the first quarter, but foul trouble sent the Huskies to the line and back into the game. The first half ended with a frenzy of 3s (Reece Ellsworth and Juan Baca twice for the Devils and Duran twice and LyBarger for the Huskies).
In the second half, the Devils stopped reaching at the Huskies guards and Battle Mountain obliged by turning the ball over. Lounsberry gave the Devils the lead for good with two 3s midway through the fourth.
“It was open,” the sophomore said. “I got a couple nice passes from my teammates and knocked them down, big 3s.”
For Eagle Valley (7-14, 4-7), there is the sincere hope that marks the turnaround of the program and sunnier days ahead.
“I think this is going to be the program-changer,” McConaghy said. “This is going to be their huge opportunity to take this on to next year. They have the confidence now.”
For Huskies seniors Joe Webb, Irving Ruacho, Matt Christiansen and Hervert, it was their final home game.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.