It was a bad two days in Routt County for the North Park boys basketball team.
Hayden defeated North Park, 49-40, on Saturday. Friday, Soroco defeated North Park by 10 points.
And while the Wildcats appeared a bit sluggish against the Tigers after back-to-back road games, particularly in the second half of Saturday's game, Hayden was every bit deserving of the victory.
"Our attitude has changed a lot," senior Dustin Driscoll said.
The Tigers outscored the visiting Wildcats, 37-16, in the second half and executed well down the stretch to preserve and secure the win.
Hayden enters the holiday break on a three-game winning streak, and coach Shawn Baumgartner also has noticed the change in attitude Driscoll touched on.
"What I see is that we are a team that knows and understands how to win," he said.
Instead of folding, despite only scoring 12 first-half points, Hayden increased its defensive intensity in the second half, limiting North Park's open outside shots and uncontested layups inside.
Meanwhile, the Tigers executed much better on offense, making better passes and sharper cuts.
"We responded well in the second half," Baumgartner said. "We stepped up and dug in defensively. Our offense comes from our defense, and our defense was lax in the first half."
Driscoll said the team got a scolding at halftime, and it worked.
Hayden outscored North Park, 17-4, in the third quarter and took the lead for good on Evan Hilling's shot off the glass as time expired in the third.
Hilling spent most of the first half on the bench in foul trouble but came back in the second, scoring nine of his 15 points in the third quarter. But senior Dustin Driscoll led the Tigers down the stretch offensively.
Driscoll scored a game-high 18 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. Driscoll wasn't sure if he would be able to play in Saturday's game after feeling sick earlier in the week.
Baumgartner said the team prepared to play without him, but Driscoll felt well enough to face North Park.
Hayden did play without starting point guard Cam Whiteman, who was out. Baumgartner said he noticed Whiteman's absence in the first half, but junior Chris Frentress and senior Ryan Bell took charge of the offense in the second half.
"I thought Chris and Ryan stepped up (Saturday)," Baumgartner said.
In the game's final 37 seconds, sophomore Keenan Bruchez, Bell, Driscoll and Frentress combined to hit six free throws, while North Park handed the game to Hayden.
Wildcat D.J. Souza fouled out with 23 seconds left, but instead of heading to the bench quietly, he slammed both of his hands on the court, sending an echo through the gym.
He was given a technical foul, and Hayden extended its lead to eight before winning by nine.
Hayden returns to the court at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 13 when it hosts rival Soroco in a nonleague game. The JV team plays at 3:30 p.m.
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