It's a good thing the Hayden and Soroco girls basketball teams are off until Friday. The players need to catch their breath.
"We've been looking to find this since after Christmas," Sor-oco sophomore Glenda Long said. "The energy, just playing together as a team. The intensity was there."
In arguably the best game played between the two teams in the past four years, the Rams defeated the rival Tigers, 45-43, on Tuesday night in Hayden.
Both teams displayed im--proved depth, and they needed it. Several Soroco starters had to sit for extended time because of foul trouble, and Hayden's players were in full-court press mode most of the game.
In a contest decided by a mere possession, the Rams came out on top because of their play in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Tigers, 12-3.
"Our biggest problem is letting our heads hang after we get behind," Long said.
Not Tuesday night.
Soroco got out to a quick lead, but Hayden regained control, 9-8, with 2 minutes, 46 seconds left in the first quarter. The Tigers held the lead until there was 5:05 left in the game, when Long pushed the Rams ahead by one on a free throw.
Hayden had two decent looks in an attempt to tie the game, but junior Emily Whiteman's turnaround jumper was short, and Mariah Doolin's 3-pointer just missed.
In a misleading statistic, Hayden was 14-of-22 from the free-throw line. Its guards did a great job driving to the basket and drawing fouls or finding the open post players, who made easy looks or drew fouls, for three quarters.
Whiteman finished with 11 points to lead the Tigers, but she didn't score in the second half. Junior Katy Koehler had nine points, and freshman Kylee Sweetser had eight points.
Senior Katie Schalnus, sophomore Amanda Wilson and sophomore Bailey Carrell each scored eight points for the Rams.
Senior Angie Knotts scored seven points, and senior Kyla Schmidt chipped in with six.
Despite Whiteman's 11 first-half points, Soroco coach Danelle Rivera said the team's defensive focus did not change after halftime.
"Our philosophy is to control what we can control," she said. "Every girl is a threat to the team. They played team defense. That's what we've been working on."
Soroco improves to 3-5 overall, and Hayden drops to 3-6 overall. Up next for the Tigers is a 5:30 p.m. game Friday against North Park in Walden. Soroco travels to Grand Valley for a 5:30 p.m. game Friday.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org