Steamboat Springs First it was a half.
Then it was a quarter.
Now it's a four-minute stretch of games that has been costing the Hayden boys basketball team victories.
In Friday's 60-43 loss to Paonia, Hayden (3-9 overall, 1-4 in conference play) played with the bigger, more athletic Paonia team for 28 minutes.
Unfortunately for those four minutes towards the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third quarter, Hayden seemed helpless.
"We battled and played even with them, but we just couldn't quite overcome those four minutes," Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner said. "Still, I think this game was clearly the best we've played all year."
In the first quarter, Hayden looked like it might break out of its eight-game losing streak. After Paonia (12-2, 4-1) scored the first basket of the game, Hayden's Jordan Williams hit three 3-pointers and Bryan Richards added a layup to put the Tigers in front 11-5. The Eagles quickly jumped right back and led by three at 14-11 before Richards hit the Tigers' fourth 3-pointer of the first quarter to tie the game.
In the second quarter, both teams exchanged baskets before the daunted four-minute stretch hit right before halftime.
After a Williams' 3-pointer closed the Hayden gap to 22-20 with 2 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Paonia started to dictate the pace of play.
Behind a strong half-court press, the Eagles forced turnover after turnover and finished the quarter on a 10-2 run to extend their lead to 32-22.
In the quarter, Hayden was outscored 18-8.
Then, in the first two minutes of the third quarter, Paonia outscored Hayden 9-2 to extend its lead to 41-24.
Hayden battled back in the fourth quarter, even cutting the lead to 10 on Williams' sixth 3-pointer of the game with 3:12 remaining, before Paonia scored the last seven points of the game.
Williams led the Tigers with 20 points, while Richards had 12.
With several more league games and a still young and inexperienced team, Baumgartner said the Tigers can only get better.
"It's coming. I said it before - it's a matter of these guys playing together," he said. "If we can find a way to continue to improve and get on a roll here toward the end, we'll see what happens."