Hayden girls pass Meeker, remain perfect

Tigers roll past Cowboys on Tuesday night

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Hayden girls basketball, 2008-09

— The Hayden High School girls basketball team did more than keep its perfect record intact Tuesday at Meeker.

In a battle of Class 2A top-10 teams, Hayden made its case as one of the classification's best, cruising past Meeker, 53-42.

"This week is really important for the rest of the league and the state to know if Hayden is for real," Tigers coach Eric Hamilton said. "Playing a ranked team like Meeker, we knew they'd be tough. To control them gives us a huge boost going into Friday against Paonia."

Friday's game against fifth-ranked Paonia will decide first place in District 5. Hamilton called Friday's game the biggest of the season for the 10-0 Tigers.

Hayden will enter the game with plenty of confidence.

On Tuesday, the Tigers jumped out to a 12-0 lead and led by 20 points for most of the game before Hamilton gave significant playing time to his substitutes in the fourth quarter.

Hamilton credited the Tigers defense for the win. Hayden limited Meeker's Marki Cook and Janae Kendall to well below their season averages. Hamilton specifically mentioned the defense of Caitlin Mahanna on Cook.

"I think she is the best defensive player in our league - by far," Hamilton said about Mahanna. "We put her on Cook, the point guard for Meeker who is averaging 17 or 18 points per game, and she took her out of the game offensively."

Holli Salazar again led the Tigers with 19 points. Rachael Koehler added 14 points, and senior Kylee Sweetser scored nine points and dished out seven assists.

Now the attention turns to Paonia and another matchup of top-10 teams. Paonia came into the season expected to win the district with four returning starters from last year's team that made the state playoffs.

Hamilton said Paonia has five players who can all score.

"It's going to be coming out just playing that intense defense with all five players," Hamilton said. "It's playing as aggressive as they did against Meeker. I just don't think anybody can handle us when we play that kind of defense."

Hayden and Paonia meet up at 6 p.m. Friday in Hayden.

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