HIGHLANDS RANCH – Valor Christian coach Ronnie DeGray watched his team win its 18th game of the season Thursday night.
Shortly after the victory he started thinking about possible rust removers.
Garrett Baggett scored 29 points and Chase Foster added 21 as the Eagles pulled away from Liberty for a 79-67 win in the Valor gym.
The win swelled the Eagles’ record to 18-4 but the game was the regular season finale. Valor, a Class 4A team in basketball, will now have to wait 13 days until the state playoffs begin Feb. 27.
“It’s too much rest,” said DeGray. “That’s the hardest thing. We’ll try to find some scrimmages here and there. Hopefully some teams will want to scrimmage us. We’ll try to keep the rust off before the playoffs start.”
However, the layoff provides an opportunity for Christian McCaffrey to get back in the lineup.
McCaffrey, an All-State football player, averaged 15.3 points in the first five games of the season but has missed the last 17 games with an ankle injury.
“One of the good things is we will get Christian McCaffrey back,” said DeGray. “It’s going to be kind of tough because he’ll be rusty. He hasn’t played in two months. Hopefully we can scrimmage here and there and get the rust out of him.
“He’s been doing light running but it’s tough because that’s not full speed.”
DeGray, the former University of Colorado player who is in his first year as Eagles coach, went with a starting lineup of five seniors who are usually reserves to start on Senior Night against the Class 5A Lancers.
However, it was juniors Baggett and Foster who sparked the victory.
Baggett connected on seven 3-pointers and both he and Foster hit key baskets in the fourth quarter to stem a Liberty rally.
The visitors, trailing by 10 points heading into the fourth quarter, pulled to within 59-57 but Foster made a slick move to the basket and tossed in a left-handed layup with 5:03 remaining.
Foster hit a short jumper in the lane after the Lancers again pulled to within two less than a minute later and Baggett drove the lane for a layup to push Valor ahead 65-59 with 3:04 on the clock.
Valor outscored the Lancers 14-8 in the final 2:30 to seal the victory.
“One of the things we’ve been talking about is not just settling for jump shots but getting to the bucket to get easy baskets,” said DeGray. “We can shoot the basketball but they are not always going to fall. So to get to the bucket, make the easy shots, makes it tough on the defense.”
Valor, the state’s fourth ranked 4A outfit, has played a variety of 5A and 4A teams this season which should help the Eagles if rust isn’t a problem in the playoffs.
“I believe we are battled tested,” said DeGray. “We’ve seen teams that are really athletic and got up and down the court and teams that have come down and played more of a half court set and were really physical and disciplined. We’ve seen a lot and we believe it is going to prepare us for the playoffs.”