Rams, Tigers girls to meet in Oak Creek

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If you go

What: Soroco (1-0) girls basketball vs. Hayden (1-1)

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Soroco High School

— A year ago, the Hayden girls basketball team completed a regular season sweep of Soroco with a dominating 26-point fourth quarter in Oak Creek. At the time, it seemed like just another win on the way to the state tournament in what turned out to be the best season in program history for the Tigers.

But Hayden needed that big fourth quarter because it actually trailed Soroco entering the final frame. Now, both teams remember how close that contest was. When the rival schools meet tonight, Soroco is eager to do more than scare Hayden. And the Tigers are intent on showing they’re still the class of the county’s 2A girls teams.

Hayden visits Soroco at 7:30 p.m. today for the first game in the annual two-game rivalry series.

“We’re expecting Soroco to play tough and be fired up to play Hayden like they always are,” Tigers coach Eric Hamilton said. “They played us super tough last year, and we expect the same thing this year.”

Tonight’s outcome may come down to how well a young Rams team can handle Hayden’s potent full-court pressure. Last year, the Tigers drove Soroco’s guards crazy with the defense, setting up a long stream of turnovers that were efficiently converted into points.

Soroco will rely on a trio of sophomore guards — Lindsay Miles, Shelby Miles and Madison George — to find their way through Hayden’s minefield.

“If you keep turning the ball over, you can be out of a game in no time. They got thrown into the fire last year as freshman, so hopefully they’ll be able to handle it a little better,” Soroco coach David Bruner said. “Hopefully that experience will pay off. When we hit the open person and find an open lane, we’ll be able to go.”

Hayden, meanwhile, will strive to be more effective in its half-court set than it was last weekend in a 2-1 performance at the Cowboy Shootout tournament in Meeker.

Hayden entered the second half of its tournament finale against North Park trailing by two points. But when the team slowed down and started working the ball around and inside to senior post Rachael Koehler, she was able to provide 12 points and fuel a comeback victory.

Patience with that inside presence may be even more important tonight as size is an area in which the Tigers have a clear advantage.

“We know they’ll be fairly small but scrappy,” Hamilton said. “If we don’t score off our press in the fast break, we need to settle down and have the patience to work it to our inside girls.”

Hayden cruised to a 73-42 victory the first time the two teams met last year. No one is expecting that kind of wide-open game this time around, however.

A win would be a strong early-season statement for either team.

“It’s a big rivalry,” Bruner said. “Soroco-Hayden, anytime the kids step on the floor they’ll put everything out there. We’re going to try to get the roles in this series reversed starting with this game.”

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

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