The joke around the Hayden locker room was that this was the last game of the year, and while the Tigers didn't wrap up the 2003 portion of their schedule with a win, they gave coach Jamie Adams plenty to look forward to in 2004.
North Park, unbeaten and untested this season, defeated Hayden, 53-30, on Saturday. The Wildcats are one of the teams picked to contend for the state championship in March.
In preparation to face North Park, Adams implemented a zone defense to counter the Wildcats' height. Other than dribble penetration, the best way to beat a zone is to hit outside shots.
North Park's Nikki Robben did just that, nailing four threes in the first half. She had a game-high 16 points.
Sophomore Mariah Doolin said the team played quite a bit of zone last season, so this week's defensive adjustments weren't too difficult for the Tigers.
But knowing how to defend North Park and actually doing it are two different things.
"We had defensive practices during the week, working on denying the post and our guards doubling down," Adams said. "In the first half, we couldn't stop their three-point shooter. In the second half, we really stepped it up. This team never quits."
Junior Aly Boyd led the way offensively for Hayden with nine points, but perhaps her most significant contribution in Saturday's game was her defensive play against the Wildcats' 6-foot-2 center Amanda Jones.
Though Jones played sparingly in the second half, she had just two points in the game, and both those came on free throws.
Robben, Sammi Schellhaas and Laura Hodgson more than compensated on offense. Schellhaas and Hodgson scored 15 and 13 points, respectively, to go with Robben's 16.
For Hayden, juniors Lauren Branstetter and Whitney Bell had eight and six points, respectively, to go with Boyd's nine.
"Every game we get better," Doolin said. "We're meshing as a team."
Many of the varsity girls got sick several weeks ago, and the team is starting to make up for lost time. Through the earlier part of the schedule, Adams said it was important for the Tigers to display continued improvements. She has seen that, which should help everyone have a much better holiday break.
"We don't have to win every game, but I want to see improvement," she said. "That's all I've asked."
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