The game was close early and was tightly played late, but as the Soroco girls basketball team focused on shuttering Hayden’s No. 1 strength, its distinct size advantage, the Tigers answered the bell and bombed in enough long shots to comfortably dispatch the Rams.
The Hayden boys and girls proved tough enough to handle their cross-county rivals Friday night. The Tigers girls beat Soroco, 70-54, and the boys knocked off the Rams, 76-46.
“We were really stroking it. We got that going, then we were able to get the ball all over the place,” Hayden girls coach Eric Hamilton said. “I’m really happy with how that worked out.”
The Hayden girls have beaten up Soroco recently with a grueling press. Beating that defense and stuffing the Tigers’ dominating low-post game were what Soroco hoped would be the keys to victory.
It’s then safe to call Friday’s game an experiment: the Rams generally were successful in those goals. A fast, aggressive attitude helped dice up the Tigers’ press, and a focused defense locked down the paint. Hayden’s top two forwards, sisters Rachael and Erin Koehler, both were kept out of double digits.
And Hayden still won, thanks to some big performances by the team’s guards.
Brette Frentress stepped up first, knocking down three 3-point shots in the first quarter. Then in the second, junior Delanie VeDepo exploded, draining four treys and scoring 14 of her game-high 18 points.
“I hit four 3-pointers once, but never in one quarter,” VeDepo said. “I had a lot of faith in my shooting and Brette’s.”
Frentress’ shooting helped her team to a 6-point first-quarter advantage. VeDepo’s effectively ended the game, putting the Tigers up 15 at halftime.
The game was the last of the regular season for Hayden, which locked down the No. 2 seed in next weekend’s district tournament and likely will play Feb. 20 at home against West Grand.
Soroco, meanwhile, will finish its regular season slate at 4 p.m. today at Vail Christian, a team the Rams handled earlier in the season, 66-25.
Soroco is slotted to be the fifth seed in the district tournament and likely will open that eight-team tournament on the road at Meeker.
“That approach, that’s what we wanted to do,” Soroco coach David Bruner said. “That’s what we’ll do against Meeker, too. Meeker’s guards aren’t as good as Hayden’s.”
The Rams were led Friday night by Corey Snyder, who had 13 points. Shelby Miles added 12, and Lindsay Miles had 10.
“We just stopped scoring in there for a while,” said Soroco’s Madison George, who finished with 9. “We missed layups and free throws and all sorts of shots.
“We are coming away from this with confidence. We have to keep that up.”
Hayden boys team solid on offense and defense
It was the blueprints come to life for the Hayden boys basketball team.
It all seemed to work, and the Tigers were relentless Friday night as they shut down the Rams and locked up the No. 2 seed in next weekend’s district tournament.
The win ensured that Hayden would host boys and girls opening-round games Feb. 20.
“We played to the level we’ve been trying to maintain all year,” Hayden coach Mike Luppes said. “We’ve had flashes like that, but this was our best complete game.”
Hayden had plenty of offensive highlights in the game. Senior forward Murphy Smartt was everywhere as he scored 20 points, and junior guard Graig Medvesk went toe to toe with Soroco’s talented backcourt and scored 19.
The Tigers offense seemed to click at every opportunity, starting with a 24-point first half. Turnovers in the half-court offense plagued Soroco, and Medvesk and the Tigers took full advantage, expanding the lead through the second half.
As machine-like as Hayden’s offense was through much of the game, it was the way the Tigers managed to plug up Soroco’s attack that really blew things open.
Junior forward Leif Carlson led the Rams with 15 points. Alex Estes had 13, and Cody Miles had 8.
“It was really tough because I’d see our guys come down the court, go one way or another and the ball kept getting stolen,” Soroco senior Matt Watwood said. “We have to come back hard now. We have to bring all our heart and soul.”
Hayden is off until next week’s district tournament, and Soroco wraps up its regular season at 5:30 p.m. today at Vail Christian. The Rams could have put themselves in position to grab the two seed with a win Friday and still could lock up a top-four seed and a home game if they win today. A loss, however, likely would drop them to the bottom half of the bracket and send them on the road for their first district game.