Hayden Natalie McDonald scored 28 points to lead Hayden over Plateau Valley in a first-round tournament game Saturday afternoon.
The senior point guard made sure her last game in her home gymnasium was a successful one as the Tigers were able to pull away from the pesky Cowboys in the second half. The Tigers won the game 84-53.
"We played 10 times better in the second half than we did in the first half," McDonald said.
"We knew they would be tough coming in."
The Tigers got to host the Cowboys because they finished the season in third place in the Western Slope League standings. The Cowboys finished at 0-10 and in last place.
"It was kind of a hard game to get up for," McDonald said.
"We thought we were ready to play."
The Cowboys played the Tigers tough in the first half. The Cowboys trailed 17-13 after the first period. The Tigers extended their lead to 36-29 going into halftime.
"We made a good run at the end of the second quarter," said Donald Rolando, Hayden's coach. "We also made a good run in the third quarter.
"We knew if we could get them down, they would stay down."
The Tigers outscored the Cowboys 48-24 in the second half.
"We got more aggressive on both sides of the ball in the second half," Rolando said. "We played better offensively."
Gary Winkleblack, Plateau Valley's coach, believes the difference in the game was Hayden's ability to take advantage of the fouls his team committed.
"Hayden hit 14 free throws in the first half," he said. "They hit 13 in the second half. We committed too many fouls."
Winkleblack saw three of his starters foul out in the second half, senior Amber Rainey and juniors Keli Kirkpatrick and Jaylene Fifield.
"We lost the leadership of those three girls," Winkleblack said. "It doomed us."
McDonald was also a factor in the Cowboys' loss. The three-year starter scored 13 points in the second half.
"She always steps up," Rolando said. "She has been a great player for us."
The Tigers also got 15 points from senior forward Robin Chiaro and 10 points from sophomore Adriana Svoboda.
The Cowboys were led in scoring by senior Megan Patterson, who had 14 points.
With the win, Hayden advances to the second round of the district tournament, which will be held at Steamboat Springs High School next Friday and Saturday.
Hayden will face second-seeded North Park at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
The Tigers lost both meetings to the Wildcats this season.
"Against North Park we have been in both games until the fourth quarter," Rolando said. "On Friday, we need to play four quarters of basketball. We will be ready for them."