Gassed Hayden boys can’t keep pace with visiting Vail Christian
Hayden — The Vail Christian High School boys basketball team goes as senior Ethan Ellsworth goes, and he went off in a big way Saturday afternoon at Hayden in a Class 2A Western Slope League contest.
Ellsworth, a three-year varsity starter, exploded in the early going and finished things off in the Saints’ 63-39 win against the Tigers, who now are 0-9.
Ellsworth scored Vail Christian’s first 14 points and closed out the second half with a game-high 26 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
“He’s our captain and our leader,” Vail Christian coach Sheldon Kuhns said about Ellsworth. “The kids really look to him just to be our guy on the court. I thought he did a really good job defensively tonight, too. He played the passing lanes well and rebounded nicely like he always does. He’s definitely our go-to guy.”
Both teams played late and taxing games Friday night — Hayden at Soroco and Vail Christian against West Grand — but the Saints shrugged off most of the cobwebs and opened things up after leading by just three points after the first quarter.
Vail Christian’s (4-3) lead increased after each quarter thereafter, taking a 11-point halftime advantage that swelled to 17 by the end of the third quarter and 24 when things were all said and done.
“I knew after playing such an emotional, hard game last night we’d be gassed,” Hayden coach Jody Harvey said. “We’re not very deep and I knew we’d get tired. They are very physical and just beat you up. That hurt us a little bit. We didn’t respond and be physical back.”
Most of the Saints’ 63 points came in the paint or just outside of it. Kuhns said Ellsworth’s down-low counterpart Cooper Gould didn’t have his best game (two points, five rebounds), but guys like Logan Raitt (15 points, three rebounds) and Alex Davis (eight points, eight rebounds) helped pick up any slack.
Harvey said Vail Christian’s post presence was the one glaring hole the Tigers simply weren’t going to be able to overcome, especially when Hayden didn’t shoot well from the floor. And in a league that consists of many Friday-Saturday contests against physical opponents, Hayden needs to catch up quickly, Harvey added.
“We need to do a better job of matching their physicality,” Harvey said. “We have to match those things. I told the kids they can’t expect people to give us stuff. They have to go get things more.”
Hayden’s Carlos Valdez led all Tigers with 20 points (15 in the second half) and eight rebounds. Kole Miner added eight points and seven boards, and freshman Keyen Camilletti pitched in eight more points.
The Saints did a decent job taking care of the ball, committing just 10 turnovers to Hayden’s 21. Vail Christian wasn’t without some flaws, though, Kuhns admitted, especially finishing around the rim and making free throws count.
“We did struggle to finish the ball tonight and struggled a little bit at the free-throw line,” Kuhns said. “But we were able to get the ball inside when we wanted to.”
Vail Christian will travel to Soroco on Tuesday and hit the road again Friday at De Beque.
Hayden is heading to undefeated Meeker on Thursday and will host North Park two days later.
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