Hayden The Hayden Tigers will enter their winter break with a little extra holiday spirit after beating the defending state champions 63-39 Saturday.
In their second-consecutive league win, the Tigers finished strong against the West Grand Mustangs as they outscored them 19-4 in the final period.
"We wanted to come out strong. They're the state champions and we wanted to beat them really bad," the game-leading scorer Kayla Kostur said.
With only one starter from last year's winning team, West Grand returned this season with a new coach and absent five of its top players.
"Their program's rebuilding. They have a lot of seniors that haven't played," Tigers coach Donald Rolando said.
Although Rolando said the Tigers started the game off flat as they ended the half at 30-23, the girls turned the game around when they executed the fast break and broke the Mustangs' press in the third period.
Senior Kristen Brown helped the Tigers step up their game in the second half as she turned on the defense. Brown finished the night as the team's top rebounder as she pulled down 18. She also finished the game with 19 points.
"(She) was one of the big reasons we did turn around. She rebounded and hustled after every play," Rolando said.
On offense, freshman Kostur led the team, tallying 26 points for the night.
"She had a strong game. With her fast break, she's the first one down there and she's going to score," Rolando said. "She'll be a really dominant player in this league.
Saturday's game saw the return of Adriana Svoboda, who had missed two games from an arm injury. Svoboda contributed 17 points.
After senior Anna Lighthizer ran into foul trouble in the first period and fouled out in the fourth quarter, the Tigers were able to fill the hole as Millie Hellyer and Whitney Bell played strong coming off the bench.
In first place in the league, the Tigers will have to suspend their momentum with a two-week winter break. Although the Tigers will have open gym practices, Rolando will not be able to have any contact with the team until Jan. 2 because of the state's holiday break regulations.
The Tigers will resume play on Jan. 11 when they face the talented and experienced Grand Valley team.