Coal Ridge unable to hold back charge of Vail Christian |

Coal Ridge unable to hold back charge of Vail Christian

Vail Daily/Shane Macomber Vail Christian's Blake Gruber battles for possession with DeLin Murphy of Coal Ridge Thursday night in Edwards. The Saints came back from 19 points to win the game in overtime.

EDWARDS – Against Coal Ridge Thursday night, the Vail Christian boys basketball team played, “How many heart attacks can we give our coach in two hours?””These guys are going to put me in the grave early,” Saints head coach Sheldon Kuhns said.Thursday night was not for the faint of heart. Vail Christian trailed by as much 56-37 with 3:40 left in the third quarter against a 2A Coal Ridge team which played well above its youthful roster. The Saints overcame ghastly free-throw shooting and an incredible 3-pointer at the buzzer by the Titans’ Kevin Screen to send the game into overtime with clutch play from Caleb Pearson and Jaryd Francis to eke out an 83-78 overtime win.”That’s just an unbelievable game,” Kuhns said. “They stepped up in the second half. What can I say. It was just bottom line, ‘Get off your butt, wake up and let’s play basketball.’ We were standing around on defense. We were lethargic on offense, not playing smart, letting little guys outrebound us.”

“What I told those guys in the locker room is, ‘We were 3-1. We’re now 3-2. We learned more out of that game right there than we have all season,'” Coal Ridge coach Mike Cox said. “I am so proud of my guys the way they never quit. We’ll be there in the hunt later in the season.”Down 41-28 at the half, it got worse for Vail Christian before it got better. But then, the Saints started to use their size advantage, first in the form of Pearson. The junior put his team on his back in the third quarter on the way to scoring 13 of his school-record 33 points.”I had no idea how many points I had, but it’s pretty cool,” Pearson said.The fourth quarter belonged to Francis who had 12 of his own in the frame.”I was just trying to help out my team,” said Francis, who ended the night with 32. “I was getting frustrated, so I was going for it.”

Francis had a three-point play with 2:32 left in regulation to give the Saints their first lead of the game and again put the Saints ahead, 72-71, with 42 seconds left in the fourth. When he sunk two free throws with 13.3 seconds remaining, he had seemingly iced the game.Enter Screen, who led his team with 24 points. He popped an incredible trey from NBA distance to tie the game and send it to OT.”I expected it,” Cox said matter-of-factly.”That was an amazing shot,” Pearson said. “I could not believe it at all. We still had the momentum from coming back from 18 (sic) points down.”The Saints may have had the momentum, but they sure didn’t make it easy in the extra four minutes, going 5-for-10 from the line.

“Clank, clank, clank,” Kuhns said somewhat jokingly.Screen and Francis traded buckets to start overtime, but the Titans’ Braxton Jackson sunk one from the charity stripe to give his team a 78-77 lead. Pearson gave the Saints the lead for good with another nifty 3-point play with 1:32 to go for an 80-78 lead. Francis and Josh Sibley sank free throws to clinch the game for Vail Christian.”That guy stuck a knife in our heart when he hit the 25-footer, but our guys came out stayed in control and pulled away,” Kuhns said.Vail Christian (3-2) is off for Christmas break and returns to action Jan. 7 against Ridgway in its 1A Mountain League opener. Coal Ridge is at Rangely Saturday at 4 p.m.

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