Hayden's tank on empty

Grand Valley Cardinals too much for tired Tigers

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Minus two of its starters, the Grand Valley girls basketball team won the program's first district championship Saturday in Hayden.

The Cardinals defeated the host Tigers, 39-24, without seniors Jamie Vance, who is sick, and Wynette Jackson, who has a sprained ankle. Grand Valley already had a spot reserved in Friday and Saturday's regional tournament after winning the regular season district title.

However, Cardinals coach Mike Johnson said he didn't rest Vance and Jackson this weekend because he wanted to. He had to.

"I'm not sure we'll have them next weekend," he said.

In their absence, senior Julianne Jones and sophomore Megan Johnson stepped up. Jones scored a game-high 13 points Saturday. Megan Johnson added eight for Grand Valley.

"Julianne has never had to be the dominant scorer, and she led us two nights in a row," Mike Johnson said.

Grand Valley defeated Rangely on Friday to advance to Saturday's championship. Hayden's inspired, come-from-behind effort in Friday's win against Meeker gave the Tigers the opportunity to play for a district title on their home court Saturday.

Grand Valley and Hayden will advance to the regional tournament in Grand Junction on Friday and Saturday, where they will face Dolores or Nucla, the regional representatives from District 3.

The top two teams from the regional tournament advance to the state tournament in Pueblo.

Grand Valley and Hayden are senior-dominated teams, so both have visions of making the state tournament field.

"Some of these girls have been dreaming about going to state since they were freshmen," Tigers coach Jayme Adams said. "If we play well on Friday, we go to state."

The emotional and physical toll that Friday's game -- a must-win situation -- took on Hayden was evident in Saturday's loss to Grand Valley. The Tigers had little left to counter the balance and depth of the Cardinals.

The district championship is the first step in what Grand Valley hopes is an extended postseason run.

"From the first summer camp, right there we started to prepare for a state championship," Cardinals coach Johnson said. "This is the best team I've had. This team understands the game."

Grand Valley never trailed Saturday. The Tigers closed to within 30-21 on senior Whitney Bell's 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter, but the Cardinals went on a 9-3 run in the fourth to close out the game.

Bell led Hayden with 11 points. Senior Alycia Boyd added 10. Senior Jamie Waugh, one of the Tigers' primary post players and rebounders, went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter. She will have a week to recover before Hayden's game Friday.

Rangely won the boys District 5 championship. Grand Valley was second after defeating Hayden by three points Friday night. Both teams advance to the regional tournament in Grand Junction.

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