Steamboat Springs The Hayden High School girls basketball team didn't appear to learn any lessons from a close game Friday night against North Park.
And they still haven't had to pay the price.
The Tigers strode to a huge second-quarter lead Saturday at Rangely, just like they had against North Park. And again, they let nearly all of it slip away. In the end, the Tigers had to fend off one last desperate Panthers attempt to tie the game before notching a 45-42 win.
"We squeaked that one out," Hayden coach Eric Hamilton said. "Rangely's a tough team, and it's tough to beat a team three times. But we got her done."
Hayden beat Rangely by 9 early in the season and by 18 a few weeks ago. After breaking out of a 4-point first-quarter deficit, it appeared the Tigers' win would be more in the fashion of their second game against Rangely.
The team scored 26 points in the second quarter - 20 more than the Panthers could muster.
"We lit it up," Hamilton said.
It nearly wasn't enough. Kylee Sweetser scored driving through the lane in the fourth quarter, but that was the team's only fourth-quarter points.
Hayden missed twice on the front end of one-and-one free throw opportunities late in the game and could do little to stop the comeback. Rangely finally stole a pass with three seconds remaining but couldn't get off the potentially game-winning shot.
"We had terrible shot selection in the fourth quarter," Hamilton said. "We really wanted to work the ball around and get easy shots, but we ended up shooting some horrible shots, and they capitalized every time."
Hayden improved to 13-1 with the victory, and despite the late struggles, Hamilton said that's something he's thrilled with.
The Tigers, with four league games remaining, still hold out hope to at least tie Paonia for the Western Slope League title.
"We are hoping they drop a game to Meeker," Hamilton said. "This was a really good win for us. To win a tough game like that, we really had to play hard. I feel really good after that."
Free throws doom boys
Hayden boys basketball coach Mike Luppes said he knew the kind of danger Rangely's Patrick Phelan could pose from the free throw line.
All he had to do was glance at the box score from the Panthers' narrow loss at Soroco. Phelan nailed 19 of 21 free throws in that game.
Just because the Tigers were aware of the danger doesn't mean they were able to prevent it, however.
Phelan hit 14 of his team's 28 made free throws as Rangley held off Hayden, 58-53.
"We played with good intensity, but we fouled too much," Luppes said. "They have some quick kids and some good ball players. You can't win when you have someone make 28 free throws against you."
The Tigers led by 3 points at halftime but trailed, 39-37, to start the fourth quarter. Zach Engle led the team with 11 points and Rene Valdez added 9, but it wasn't enough to catch up to the Panthers.
"It was close all the way through," Luppes said. "We hustled and had good intensity. We didn't play that bad a ball game, but we let it slip away at the foul line."