Soroco senior Robert Anderson is left with nowhere to go as Hayden junior Murphy Smartt towers over him beneath the basket Thursday night as the Tigers (4-2) handed the Rams (5-1) their first loss of the season. Smartt led all scorers in the game with 26 points. The Tigers won, 63-54.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Soroco senior Robert Anderson is left with nowhere to go as Hayden junior Murphy Smartt towers over him beneath the basket Thursday night as the Tigers (4-2) handed the Rams (5-1) their first loss of the season. Smartt led all scorers in the game with 26 points. The Tigers won, 63-54.

Hayden boys basketball sends Soroco to 1st season loss, 63-54

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Game statistics

Hayden 63, Soroco 54

Soroco 13-9-17-15 - 54

Hayden 22-14-12-15 - 63

Soroco - Miles 8 5-7 21, Estes 3 0-2 6, Tibbetts 6 0-0 17, Mason 2 0-0 4, Anderson 1 1-1 3, Schmidt 1 0-1 2. Totals 21 6-11 54.

Hayden - Medvesk 2 1-2 5, J.Engle 1 0-0 2, Smartt 10 6-8 26, Z.Engle 4 1-2 9, Barnes 5 4-4 15, Zehner 3 0-0 6. Totals 26 12-16 63.

3-pointers: Soroco (5) - Tibbetts. Hayden (1) - Barnes.

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Hayden junior Murphy Smartt spins toward the basket around Soroco's Matt Watwood on Thursday as the Tigers piled up a 63-54 victory. Smartt led the way for Hayden, scoring 17 of his 26 points in the first half.

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Soroco junior Cody Miles tries to hold off Hayden senior Billy Zehner while reaching for a loose ball Thursday night as the Rams fell to the Tigers. Hayden won the game thanks to several long stretches in which it took advantage of the turnover-prone Soroco squad.

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Soroco junior Cody Miles blows past Hayden's Jeremy Engle on Thusday on his way to scoring a layup. Miles had 21 points, but it wasn't enough to help the Rams to a 6-0 record. Soroco lost its first game of the season, falling to Hayden, 63-54.

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Hayden junior Zach Barnes lifts the ball over Soroco's Bobby Mason on Thursday as the Tigers beat the Rams, 63-54, to improve their record to 4-2.

Hayden boys basketball, 2008-09

Soroco boys basketball, 2008-09

— Hayden boys basketball coach Mike Luppes was cautious and reserved when asked what message his team sent to the Western Slope League on Thursday night.

"We played the way we wanted to," he said, his lips pressed together even as they spread into a where's-the-canary smile.

Junior forward Murphy Smartt wasn't nearly as subdued.

"We announced we can play with anyone," he said, still soaking in his team's 63-54 win against rival Soroco. "We are a team to compete with."

Hayden dismantled a previously unbeaten Soroco squad Thursday. A late Ram rally cut the gap to single digits, but it was all Tigers, all night. Hayden led by 14 at half and by 20 midway through the fourth quarter. The team ravaged Soroco's passing lanes and converted turnovers into quick buckets from beginning to end.

The final result was a Hayden team with a newfound identity and a Soroco squad suddenly in search of answers.

"We were supposed to lose this game," Smartt said. "We came together as a team. We wanted to play hard and show them we can play like this any time."

Smartt played a key role in a first-quart stretch that blew the game open. Soroco turned the ball over four times in five possessions and was whistled for an offensive foul on the other offensive set. Smartt, meanwhile, scored to break a 7-7 game, stole a pass and scored to make it 12-7. He put in another basket to put Hayden up, 17-9.

Senior Zach Barnes added a 3-point shot, and Billy Zehner stole yet another pass, cruising the length of the court to lay the ball in for a 22-13 lead as time expired on the first quarter.

Smartt went on to lead the team with 26 points. Barnes finished with 15.

"We've been practicing intensity," Smartt said. "That's really what did it."

A similar stretch in the fourth quarter - Hayden put together a 15-2 run - put the game away, but Soroco managed to play much better between those crushing stretches.

Junior Cody Miles, who led his team with 21 points, found success driving through the lane. Alex Estes, also a junior, emerged from a first-half slump to score 6 points in the third quarter, and senior Ryan Tibbetts hit his third 3-point shot of the night early in the third. His fourth - a bomb just a few feet inside the half-court line as time expired in the quarter- cut the gap to 9.

Senior Bobby Mason put back a Miles miss on the fourth quarter's first possession to cut the lead to 7, and the Rams were right back in the game.

"I thought we had a chance at that point," Miles said. "But we started making mistakes again. We played timid, tight and scared a lot of the game.

"We made this game too big and played scared instead of relaxed, like we usually do."

Hayden's final surge dashed any hopes of a comeback.

Smartt made three free throws, and Barnes buried a jump shot from 15 feet. Two more steals - Zehner and Medvesk both cruised to layups - helped blow the lead to 20, as large as it was all night.

"We talked this week about needing to play good defense and get rebounds, and tonight, we did both," Luppes said. "We played well."

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