Sometimes teams deserve to win, and other times, they get lucky. The Hayden boys fell into the latter category Friday night.
Hayden defeated rival Soroco, 47-41, despite a second-half effort that left coach Shawn Baumgartner and senior Jared Alpe thankful to leave Oak Creek with a league win.
The Rams outscored and outhustled the Tigers during the third and fourth quarters Friday, holding Hayden to just 14 second-half points, including two in the third quarter. But the 16-point lead the Tigers were able to build in the first half sustained them through the Rams' valiant comeback attempt.
"We were ready to go at the beginning," Alpe said. "We figured we would come out in the second half and put them away."
In a rivalry game, it is customary for the team that is behind -- particularly if it's the home team -- to make a run, and the Rams spent the third quarter getting back in the game, closing a 16-point gap to eight by the outset of the fourth.
After senior Kory Babcock's 3-pointer and a series of converted free throws after ill-timed Tigers fouls, Soroco found itself to within four points with 3 minutes, 38 seconds left in the game.
The teams exchanged fouls and free throws before the momentum shifted back in the Tigers' favor with 1:52 remaining.
Rams senior C.J. Remick went in for a layup and drew contact, but no foul was called. Remick, however, was whistled for a foul while trying to grab the loose rebound, prompting a reaction from him and a technical foul call from an official.
The Tigers failed to convert on the awarded free throws or next possession but did manage to take more than 30 seconds off the clock.
Two Trevor Ellis free throws pulled Soroco back to within six with 54 seconds left, but Hayden sophomore Keenan Bruchez answered those with two of his own, after he snuck behind Soroco's defense and junior Chris Frentress found him for an easy lay-in with 38 seconds remaining.
Soroco senior Matt Cartas made a basket as time expired, bringing the final to 47-41.
"They wanted the game in the second half," Baumgartner said of Soroco. "We didn't handle their pressure well."
The Tigers weren't helped by Frentress' absence for most of the second half because of foul trouble. Frentress, along with junior Cam Whiteman, is one of Hayden's primary ball handlers.
But Soroco pressured everyone equally in the second-half of Friday's game, outplaying Hayden during the game's final 16 minutes.
Offensively, Alpe scored a game-high 12 points for the Tigers. Teammates Evan Hilling and Dustin Driscoll chipped in with eight and 10 points, respectively. For the Rams, Remick, senior Jack Means and junior Tony Iacovetto each had eight points.
The loss drops Soroco to 5-10 overall and 1-6 in league play, while Hayden improves to 12-4 and 4-2.
The Tigers continue league play at 5:30 p.m. today in Paonia, while the Rams host Little Snake River from Baggs, Wyo., at 2:30 p.m. today in a nonleague matchup.