Hayden basketball looks to maintain success

Tigers return 2 of league’s top players

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Hayden basketball season schedule

Time/Date/Opponent

7:30 p.m./Today/at Soroco

TBA/Dec. 10 to 12/at Meeker/Tournament

TBA/Dec. 17 to 19/at Green River/Tournament

TBA/Jan. 8/at West Grand

5:30 p.m./Jan. 9/at Plateau Valley

6:30 p.m./Jan. 12/Baggs, Wyo.

TBA/Jan. 15/at Meeker

3:30 p.m./Jan. 16/at De Beque

TBA/Jan. 22/Vail Christian

6 p.m./Jan. 29/at North Park

TBA/Jan. 30/vs. Rangely

6:30 p.m./Feb. 2/vs. Baggs, Wyo.

6:30 p.m./Feb. 5/at Paonia

7:30 p.m./Feb. 9/vs. North Park

8 p.m./Feb. 12/vs. Soroco

TBA/Feb. 20/Districts first round

TBA/Feb. 26 and 27/Districts at Rangely

— When Denver Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony scored a career-high 50 points Friday night to lead his team to a 128-125 victory against the New York Knicks, the Hayden High School boys basketball team was cheering wildly from the stands in Denver’s Pepsi Center.

Impressive, yes, Tigers coach Mike Luppes admitted. But on the ride home, he used Anthony’s big night as an example of what not to do.

“Carmelo put on a heck of a show and scored 50, but he was going against double and triple teams,” Luppes noted. “He wasn’t passing out of it.”

He said the Nuggets’ lack of passing caught up to them Sunday, when they lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“When the Nuggets are passing and taking good shots, they’re very successful,” he said. “When they’re not, they’re terrible.”

It was the perfect lesson, he said, for a Tigers team that he expects to face many of the same problems.

At its best, Luppes said, Hayden will feature a pair of high-scoring standout players who could help the team improve upon last year’s season.

At its worst, the team could be a talented-but-bumbling squad like the Denver team that lost Sunday night.

Hayden will be led by senior Murphy Smartt and junior Graig Medvesk, both of whom earned first-team all-league honors last season after breakout campaigns.

Smartt, with his speed and dynamic leaping ability, proved one of the Western Slope’s top options in the paint.

Medvesk, meanwhile, took control of the point guard position and proved a reliable offensive threat driving through the lane and shooting from the outside.

The team did sustain a blow during the football season when potential starter Ben Fulton went down with a broken wrist. It’s still up in the air whether he’ll be able to return for the end of the season, Luppes said.

Still, Luppes has found a deep, if at times inexperienced, squad.

“We’ve got seven seniors out and several of those guys have been playing real well,” Luppes said. “Then Murphy and Graig, our two returning all-conference players, have been playing really well, too.”

The Tigers open their season at 7:30 p.m. today on the road against Soroco.

An early win against the Rams last year helped spark Hayden to a good season, but Luppes said if his Tigers are to realize similar success in the cross-county rivalry, they’ll need to remember how it happened in the first place.

“Last year, we definitely won with our rebounding and our defense,” he said. “But we have an entirely different personality to our ball club this year. Hopefully we can step up where we left off, but we’ve got some work to do.”

— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@steamboatpilot.com

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