Steamboat Springs The Hayden boys and girls basketball teams headed to Plateau Valley last Saturday for the first round of the Class 2A District 5 Tournament against higher-seeded teams.
Both squads pulled off upset victories, and now return to tournament host site Plateau Valley today with an even tougher task - a second set of upset playoff wins if they hope to gain a regional berth.
The winners of tonight's games advance to the district championship Saturday afternoon. The champion faces the No. 2 seed from District 3 and the runner-up faces the District 3 champion at the regional tournament March 3 in Grand Junction. The two regional champs then advance to the eight-team state tournament March 5 in Pueblo.
But Shawn Baumgartner can't afford to look that far ahead.
The Hayden boys coach knows he has to focus on the task at hand - keeping the volatile No. 2-seeded Grand Valley Cardinals' (17-3 overall) offense under wraps.
"We've got to shut down (Sam) McKinley," Baumgartner said of the Cardinals' sharpshooter. "And we have to keep their other guys contained."
Grand Valley defeated Hay-
den, 94-49, in a Feb. 9 regular season meeting. The Cardinals also had stuck it to the Tigers during last year's regular season, but Baumgartner rallied his team for a close 40-39 playoff loss to the Tigers at the District 5 Tournament.
Although his team averages roughly 30 points a game less than Grand Valley, Baumgartner hopes Hayden (6-12 overall, 3-6 in district) can put everything together for a complete defensive effort.
"They've stepped up to realize this is their last opportunity during the last few games to go out the best they can," Baumgartner said of his seniors' emerging maturity and leadership.
The Hayden girls (9-9 overall, 4-5 in district) have an equally daunting assignment with No. 1-seeded Plateau Valley (17-1).
Citing Plateau Valley's similarities to the Grand Valley squad Hayden upset in the first round, Hayden coach Stephanie Davis said she planned to stick to the same game plan - solid team defense designed to eliminate perimeter shooting and full-court fast breaks. The Cowboys beat the Tigers, 57-29, in their Jan. 27 meeting after Davis said her team gave up a close game in the fourth quarter.
Davis said she has been pleased with her team's "high-intensity" practices this week, aimed at going in and playing as competitive a playoff game as possible.
The girls play at 6:30 p.m. tonight and the boys play at 8 p.m. With wins, the girls play the winner of Paonia vs. Meeker at 1 p.m. Saturday and the boys play the winner of Meeker and West Grand at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.