The Hayden girls basketball team held the lead for the majority of Friday's game against Soroco, but the Tigers didn't take control until sophomore Sara Sumerlin hit two free throws with one second left to give her team a 27-22 win.
"This was a big game for us," Hayden coach Jayme Adams said. "They love to play Soroco, and they get kind of nervous. They handled it really well (Friday)."
The Rams' patented full-court press was out in full force Friday, and the Tigers didn't handle that particularly well, as Soroco closed to within one point, 22-23, with 3 minutes, 19 seconds left.
Hayden was without the services of its starting point guard junior Kim Medvesk, who fouled out at the 1:22 mark in the third quarter on a diving, over-the-back call. In her absence, the Tigers struggled at times to get the ball across the court in the mandatory 10 seconds.
But in the game's final two minutes, when it mattered most, Hayden stepped up its play, making key free throws and forcing jump balls to preserve the league win.
In the game's final two minutes there were six jump balls, and the Rams got the final one, trailing by three with less than 15 seconds remaining.
Senior Hallie Shiner attempted the game-tying shot but missed. The long rebound fell into the hands of Hayden junior Alycia Boyd, who passed it to Sumerlin. Sumerlin was fouled and made her free throws to give the Tigers the final 5-point margin of victory.
"I knew Soroco would bring that pressure, so we told the girls we had to bring it, too," Adams said.
The Tigers run a drill in practice, encouraging aggressiveness when it comes to loose balls and the hardwood floor. Adams rolls a ball down the court, and the two players first in line must dive on the floor in an attempt to recover it.
"It's fun," Medvesk said. "When there are loose balls in games, we dive on them."
Hayden's defensive aggressiveness translated into a much-needed win Friday night.
The win moved the Tigers to 4-12 overall and 3-3 in league play. The Rams, meanwhile, fell to 8-7 overall and 4-3 in the league.
Rams coach Bob Johnson said Soroco played Friday's game in much the same way it practiced leading up to it.
"You can't turn it on in games," he said.
Offensively, Soroco was led by Shiner's seven points and senior Chelsey Reynolds' six points. Hayden's leading scorer was junior Whitney Bell who had eight points to go along with five rebounds. Medvesk had seven points, while junior Jamie Waugh pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.
Hayden returns to action at 4 p.m. today in Paonia. Soroco hosts Little Snake River at 4 p.m.