Soroco girls run down Vail Christian for big win
OAK CREEK — Practices can be awful, Mattie Rossi admitted Thursday night. A senior on the Soroco High School girls basketball team, she’s plenty used to the demands that can come with playing for the Rams, who push an up-tempo pace in part to compensate for the fact that Rossi, at 5-feet, 7-inches tall, is one of the tallest girls on the roster.
In practice, there are sprints after missed free throws, three times down and back. There are sprints in the team’s full-court scrimmages, designed to mimic the team’s game-day speed. Then, for extra fun, there are sprinting sessions, 17 times back and forth across the court, or nine times up and down, over and over again.
Soroco got off to a miserable start Thursday, trailing undefeated Vail Christian by a dozen points in the first half.
The Rams maintained an intensity through the second half their opponents simply couldn’t match, however, up and down the court, again and again.
All that work paid off, however, as Soroco knocked off Vail Christian, 55-41, to take a commanding lead in the Western Slope League.
“It’s terrible,” Rossi said, thinking back to a typical practice, “but, after you win a game like this, you realize if you want to win, you have to do it.
“You learn to appreciate it.”
The pace Soroco set was unrelenting.
Trailing 23-13 at half, it managed to tie the game within five minutes, then take a lead before the end of the third quarter. A buzzer-beating shot from Vail left things tied at 34-34 heading into the fourth, but the Rams’ quickness, both on offense and with a punishing full-court press, only became more effective.
Soroco scored the first six points of the fourth quarter, the third of those buckets coming on a fast break following a turnover and a quick pass to junior Grace Olinger, who looped a reverse layup under the basket.
Rossi scored on the next possession after hauling in an offensive rebound and Soroco’s Chloe Veilleux scored seven of the game’s next nine points after that to put things away.
Veilleux’s run was absurd. Soroco pulled in three offensive rebounds to set up her first basket in that span, a 3-pointer. She then stole the ensuing Vail inbounds pass and added her own reverse layup.
The series left Soroco coach David Bruner hopping up and down on the sidelines, arms in the air, celebrating himself nearly out of breath, and it left Vail trailing by nine.
The final basket of the run came after yet another offensive rebound.
“I told the girls I knew Vail would get tired,” Bruner said. “We run our girls a lot and I know they don’t like it, but that’s why we won that game. We physically wore them down.”
Veilleux finished with a game-high 24 points, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter.
Rossi finished with 14 points and Kayla Willie eight.
Vail’s Jessie Raitt scored 17 to lead the Saints.
The win bumps Soroco to 8-3 on the season and 3-0 in the league. That’s far too early to start making any kind of postseason plans, but Soroco’s three wins have come against three of the next four teams in the standings.
Next up is a trip Saturday to play at winless Caprock Academy.
Thursday, Soroco didn’t even stop once it built a lead.
With about 3 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter Rossi was so exhausted she had to ask for a few minutes on the bench and even there the only thing that kept her from getting sick in her chair was the fact she didn’t eat much before the game.
That part, she said, is a bit like practice. It’s not fun.
What came at the end of the game, however, was.
“You feel it. You just have to know your break is coming, but until it comes you have to go 100 percent because everyone else is going 100 percent,” Rossi said. “We definitely go as hard as we can, as long as we can.”
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