Vail Christian beats Hayden girls at home for 1st time in Saints history | SteamboatToday.com

Vail Christian beats Hayden girls at home for 1st time in Saints history

Ben Ingersoll

— The Vail Christian High School girls basketball team finally got that elusive win in Hayden’s gymnasium Saturday afternoon.

Led by sensational freshman Jessie Raitt, the Saints used a hot first quarter and cruised to victory against the Tigers, 40-25, the first time Vail Christian has won in Hayden.

"The effort was great tonight," Saints coach Doug Bruce said. "The execution wasn’t great, but we got off to a great start, which proved to be really important."

Both teams played emotional Friday evening games, which took a bit of a tired-legs toll on both rosters. Hayden put up a valiant effort at rival Soroco, eventually losing, 68-39. The Saints won a shootout at home against West Grand, 69-63.

The ramped-up games Friday night coupled with Vail Christian’s lengthy bus ride to Hayden left some noticeably tired bodies Saturday, especially in the second half. It was the Saints who were able to grab a 16-8 first-quarter lead and tack on some gimme points down the stretch for the 15-point win.

"That was our goal to come out and make sure we got off to a good start," Bruce said. "We played really hard last night against West Grand. It was a shootout. We had to play 32 hard minutes, and I thought in the second half tonight we looked flat out of gas."

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Raitt was all over the floor against Hayden after scoring 26 against West Grand. She had a game-high 11 points to go along with seven rebounds and a pair of assists. Jessie Hartley and Remy Beveridge combined to score 16 more for the Saints.

For a young-and-learning Hayden group, Tigers coach Michelle Wilkie said she and her squad are done making excuses. Hayden still is stuck with just three wins this year, but Wilkie said going forward, she’s going to focus on instilling a can-do attitude.

"We can’t make any more excuses," Wilkie said. "We can’t say we’re too young or the shots just aren’t falling. We have to do something about that now."

The stat sheet was a bit bare for the Tigers, who forced 19 Saints turnovers but coughed up 17 of their own. Hayden put up 66 shots on the night, but only made 15 percent of them and were plagued by rough free-throw shooting, making less than 40 percent of their charity-stripe attempts.

Kara Cozzens led the way for Hayden with seven points and a game-high 18 rebounds. Darian Murphy pitched in seven points and Taylor Hagar had four.

"We played hard last night, but you’d think playing hard would carry over," Wilkie said. "It’s a lack of focus. We have to execute our offense and finish our shots."

The Saints have a tough road contest Tuesday at Soroco (6-2). They then head to De Beque on Friday before the three-day holiday weekend.

Hayden has an equally difficult road game to weather Thursday at league power Meeker. The Tigers will host North Park at 1 p.m. Saturday.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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