Vail Valley preps: Devils sweep up Palisade
GYPSUM – The Eagle Valley boys basketball team wasn’t letting this one get away.
Three days after blowing a 12-point lead in a loss at Delta, the Devils closed the deal Friday night, sending Palisade packing, 53-45, to even their league mark at 1-1.
“We rebounded and we didn’t turn the ball over,” said senior James VanDyke, who led the Devils with 11 points. “We were beating Delta and playing well and we didn’t do that. We played better defense tonight.”
The sound you just heard was Devils coach Brent McConaghey profoundly agreeing on that point. Eagle Valley snapped a six-game losing streak – in fairness, a lot of those games were tight defeats – by playing good defense, and, as a result, staying out of foul trouble.
“The major difference for us is that we remembered what to do defensively, and we remembered that fouling isn’t a good idea,” the coach joked. “That whole second half, we were only at four team fouls. Typically, we’re at eight to nine team fouls in the fourth quarter. When we’re not there, we can play the defense I want to play – high and aggressive.”
Eagle Valley (4-6 overall and 1-1) in the slope also made the key baskets when necessary to pull away late. Up just 42-41 with 4:20 to go, Jeremy Sabo tipped one in from the paint. After Cooper Senn knocked down a free throw, senior Mervin Vargas had his only bucket of the night, but it was big.
The senior went up hard from the post on a designed play just after McConaghey called a time out. That field goal extended Eagle Valley’s lead to 47-41. Todd Wells iced the game with a layup and two freebies.
McConaghey continued to use most of bench throughout the game. He said he wants to play an up-tempo game and substituting en masse as he did Friday helps keep everyone fresh with the added benefit of getting everyone playing time. He said that would be particularly critical as the league schedule continues, often with games on back-to-back days.
Sophomore Sam Lounsberry had nine points, seven of which came early as the Devils jumped out to a 24-10 lead early in the second quarter. Jesse Gish contributed eight, while sophomore Juan Baca had six.
Girls bounce back
Naturally, every phase of the game went better for Eagle Valley girls basketball Friday night after a 65-30 loss in Delta Tuesday.
Going from a 35-point loss to a 36-30 win Friday night against Palisade, that’s sort of as obvious as saying it’s warmer when the sun’s out.
But if you want to look at two keys, they were turnovers and rebounds. The Devils had just four turnovers in the fourth quarter Friday night after 38 in the first three quarters.
Eagle Valley also wiped the glass clean when it came to rebounding with 16 from Kayla Gagnon and seven from Bri Roth.
“When both our posts are working hard and boxing out, making that contact and attacking the basketball, we’re a much better team,” said Eagle Valley coach Sam Bartlett.
Better rebounding and fewer turnovers were just a matter of calming down and playing their game, said Gagnon, who had a double-double with 10 points.
“Tonight we played as a team and settled down. We just played,” the senior said. “At Delta, we were freaked out and didn’t know what to do. Here, we just settled down. We worked really hard in practice the last few days.”
Gagnon, Roth and the Devils started the fourth quarter leading just, 23-22. The former two started the final eight minutes with lay-ins. Palisade put Eagle Valley in the bonus and Roth on the line, which is just a bad idea. Roth, on her way to a team-high 14 points, knocked down two 1-and-1s.
Roth followed with a nice jumper with 2:04 left in the game, making it 33-29. Freshman Madeline Lounsberry and junior Cori Cramer hit their freebies and the Devils got their first league win of the year,
Both Eagle Valley teams host Fruita Monument Tuesday before returning to league play Friday against Moffat County, also in Gypsum.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.