Oak Creek This is the season of patience, Hayden coach Donny Rolando said.
With one senior and one junior on the roster, Rolando knew tough times would be ahead as his players learned more about themselves and each other as basketball players.
Soroco, on the other hand, has two sophomores on the entire varsity roster, and it showed Tuesday as the Rams defeated the Tigers 51-42 in Oak Creek.
"We're not used to this intensity yet," Rolando said. "They are still learning each other. Our problem is our point guards need to be better at distributing the basketball. They will get better. Right now it's tough for them to go one on one."
Soroco coach Bob Johnson wishes his team would attack the basket more often. The Rams attempted eight free throws, making four compared to Hayden's 14-of-24 effort from the line.
But what Soroco currently lacks in offensive aggression the squad more than makes up for on the defensive end, and that played a pivotal role in the Rams' win.
Kayla Kostur is usually Hayden's top scorer, and she was again on Tuesday night, but the sophomore was held in check, scoring just nine points.
Controlling her was a defensive focus, junior Hallie Shiner said.
"She played hard," Shiner said. "But we were getting in there frustrating her. I thought we stepped up defensively, but we have to step it up more."
The game remained relatively close for the entire contest. At the half, Soroco led 25-20, after both teams rebounded from slow offensive first quarters. Heading into the fourth, the Rams led by seven, and with just more than five minutes remaining their lead was six.
The closest Hayden got was within four with 3:52 left in the game off sophomore Alisha Henry's basket, but Soroco senior Jessie deGanahl answered Henry's basket with her own, pushing her team back up six.
Three straight Tiger turnovers aided Soroco in establishing a nine-point lead with 2:30 to go.
Instead of fouling to challenge Soroco to make its free throws, Hayden stepped up its defensive intensity in the closing minutes, forcing two turnovers, but the Tigers were unable to get the number of possessions they needed to make a comeback.
"Our press worked well," Johnson said. "We got quite a few points off our press, which is important since we're not good shooters. They are improving and that's all I can ask for, but we have to execute better on offense."
A bright spot for the Rams, in addition to picking up the non-league win, was the play of Shanna Schalnus.
Johnson said Schalnus usually sees playing time, but Tuesday was a breakout game of sorts for the senior post. Johnson thought her 10 points and aggressive rebounding were the difference in the game.
Schalnus' teammates agreed.
"She was amazing," senior Meg Hayne said. "She was a big contributor tonight."
Shiner scored a game-high 11 points to go with Schalnus' 10 and deGanahl's nine.
Kostur had a team-high nine points for Hayden. Henry, fellow sophomore Whitney Bell and senior Adriana Svoboda each had seven for the Tigers.
The win moved Soroco to 4-5 overall, while Hayden dropped to 1-5 overall.
Tuesday's game was not a league contest. The two teams will square off again on Feb. 7 in a league battle in Hayden.
"We'll be ready," Rolando said.