Hayden junior Ben Fulton tries to reach between a pair of De Beque players to snag a rebound last week in the Tigers' 80-50 victory. Hayden will try to carry that momentum into today's game against Paonia.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Hayden junior Ben Fulton tries to reach between a pair of De Beque players to snag a rebound last week in the Tigers' 80-50 victory. Hayden will try to carry that momentum into today's game against Paonia.

Huge night for Hayden basketball

Boys are fighting for a top spot in District 5 while the girls look to remian undefeated

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If you go

What: Hayden boys and girls basketball vs. Paonia

When: Girls start at 6 p.m., boys start at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Hayden High School

Hayden girls basketball, 2008-09

Hayden boys basketball, 2008-09

— As good and as bad as the Hayden boys basketball team has been at different times of the season, the team still has a shot to finish near the top of the District 5 standings.

With seven winnable games remaining, starting at 7:30 p.m. today at home against Paonia, the Hayden High School squad has the opportunity to finish strong.

While Paonia has struggled this year, Hayden coach Mike Luppes said they are a team to be reckoned with.

"We've spent a lot of time saying this is not a team we can overlook at all," Luppes said earlier this week. "That's a team, I'm afraid, that's going to give teams a lot of problems. It's just one you can't overlook."

Huge game for girls

There is no way around the importance of today's matchup between the fourth-ranked Hayden girls basketball team and fifth-ranked Paonia.

The winner of the 6 p.m. showdown in Hayden will have clear control of District 5 and a leg up on a top seed heading into the state playoffs.

"We're trying to focus one game at a time," Hayden coach Eric Hamilton said. "It's like we have goals set throughout the year, and it's one step at a time. Every game is a step. We try to prepare for each game and then move to the next step."

Paonia might be the biggest step Hayden (10-0 overall) has encountered all year.

The Eagles return four starters from last year's team that made the state playoffs. Led by senior point guard Johanna Reed and junior forward Jordyn Rienks, Paonia hasn't lost to a team in Class 2A.

"I know their starting five all the way around can score at any time," Hamilton said. "They've got great perimeter shooting. Jordyn Rienks is a great post player. We can't sag off of anyone. We have to play tough on all five of them. There is nobody we can let have an open shot."

There might not be a more confident team than Hayden. The Tigers have yet to lose this season and are coming off their most impressive victory of the year Tuesday. Hayden traveled to preseason District 5 favorite Meeker and came away with a 53-42 win. Hamilton said the Tigers defense won the game for them and when they play the way they did against the Cowboys, it will be tough for anyone to beat them.

Still, Hamilton knows today's game will be Hayden's toughest test of the season.

"We're really promoting the game. We want to pack the gym," Hamilton said. "We're trying. We're hoping this is the night."

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