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Vista Ridge junior Caleb Kelley takes a jump shot Dec. 14, 2021, against Falcon at Vista Ridge High School in Colorado Springs.

Caleb Kelley's record-breaking performance against defending state champion Lewis-Palmer on Jan. 7 almost didn't happen.

The Vista Ridge senior shooting guard made seven 3-pointers in the contest, one shy of Payton Kaiser's record eight made in February of 2018 against Palmer Ridge. With his boys basketball team up 13 with 1:20 to go in the fourth, Wolves coach Joe Hites was looking for the win, unaware of the potential history to be made. 

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Luckily, Hites had an assistant coach track 3-pointers made. 

"Normally we would take the air out of the ball, we wouldn't even look for a shot and we'd go old school selfish, only-child basketball and just go for the win," Hites said. "I told (Kelley) I said you can go ahead and look, because these opportunities don't come very often, go ahead and look at three."

After the Wolves got a stop on defense, Kelley made the best of the opportunity his coach gave him, hitting another three in transition.  

Hites wasn't going let Kelley hit 10 or 11 3-pointers out of respect for the Rangers. But it seemed only fair that he give his player one chance at nine, a chance to pass Kaiser and etch his name in school history.  

Kelley found another open look and hit it. 

"Obviously the basket felt really big that night," Kelley said of his performance. "I was shooting good. But it all comes down really to my teammates. I wouldn't be in that position at all without them screening for me and getting me open. Everything comes from them really."  

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Kelley continued his stellar play into last week shooting 15 of 34 for 41 points in Vista's two games. 

Beyond the individual accolades, though, Kelley credits his accomplishments to the culture of the Vista Ridge program and the lessons he learned from seniors before him. 

"The seniors before me as well, leaving a mark last year, sweet 16 and all that," he said. "They set the path for me. Coach set the path for me to (break the record). I'm doing my job for my team and doing things for the team just helped me with my personal accolades as well and at the end we got the 'W.'"

Kelley specifically praised former Wolves point guard Andrew Johnson for the way in which he carried himself. He applauded the former senior's silent leadership in which he let his game do the talking. 

Blocking out all else and getting the job done on the court was a theme from Vista's basketball team a season ago in which the Wolves made a run to the sweet 16 of the 5A state playoffs. 

"I'm standing there in the gym, looking around, going I'm the tallest guy in the gym and I was the shortest guy in my starting lineup," Hites said of last year's team. "We don't have the size and we don't pass the eye test, but we had 12 guys that did their jobs, understood their role and they did it for their brother and the guy standing next to them. And they really set their ego at the door but picked it back up on their way to the court."

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Kelley's success is a result of going through that process. Coming into high school, Hites said Kelley could always shoot well. But at Vista, he learned how to move when he didn't have the ball and how non-ball screens could open him up to showcase his shooting talent.

Hites said his program emphasizes off-ball movement and play like that of great shooters such as Ray Allen and Klay Thompson. 

"He was in love with putting the ball on the floor and trying to create his own shots," Hites said. "The maturity that it took and the trust that it took from him to really embrace, 'Wait a minute. There's another way to do this and if I trust my teammates and I take some attention off of myself and disappear and try to move without the ball it can actually be more beneficial to my skill set,' and so he had to go through that maturation of trusting."