Hayden The Hayden High School boys basketball team threw one heck of a party Saturday night, and it had the home crowd roaring from beginning to end.
After falling in a 5-0 first-quarter hole, the Tigers seemed nearly unstoppable, rolling to a massive first-half lead and eventually a 68-52 victory against Plateau Valley.
“Things were going well today,” Hayden coach Mike Luppes said. “This was our best game of the year from beginning to end.”
If Saturday night was Hayden’s circus, senior Rene Valdez emerged as the night’s ringleader.
Valdez had 13 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, nine on the offensive end. He was a force in the paint all night long, but his spotlight moment came in the second quarter.
After the Cowboys jumped to that 5-0 lead, Hayden closed out the period on a 14-0 run and then added six more points early in the second quarter. Murphy Smartt scored to make it 20-5, and then the Tigers again stole the ball, quickly relaying it to Valdez. He took two massive steps and threw down a dunk for a 22-5 lead.
That highlight stood out over a behind-the-back assist to Ben Williams in the first quarter and several acrobatic shots in the second half.
“This was one of his best games,” Luppes said. “He’s been playing well but in different facets every time. Today, he pulled it all together.”
Valdez certainly shone bright, but the Hayden roster was full of stars Saturday.
Smartt led the team with 17 points and point guard Graig Medvesk added 14. Raul Valdez sank a pair of 3-point shots and finished with nine.
From start to finish, Hayden scored by creating turnovers with a tough press, and it frequently found points with offensive rebounds.
Smartt had 14 rebounds.
Plateau Valley finally came alive in the second half and kept the game from finishing as a rout. After scoring just 19 in the first half, the Cowboys scored 19 in the third quarter and 15 more in the fourth.
The team’s leading scorer, lanky sophomore guard Teddy Grundy, was held to one point in the first half but finally found room to operate in the second. He finished with 13, but that wasn’t enough. Plateau Valley crawled within 16 points, but Hayden slammed the door and secured the victory.
Tigers girls lose senior, roll over Plateau Valley
The good news for the Hayden girls basketball team Saturday night was obvious. The squad was barely challenged for the second straight night as it rolled up an 80-32 home victory against Plateau Valley.
The bad news was equally obvious as senior Jarah Woodley, one of the team’s two returning starters from last year’s state tournament team, sat at the end of the bench in street clothes. Woodley injured her knee during a winter break practice and is done for the season.
“She’s a big part of our team, and now we want to do it for her,” junior Kyra Rolando said.
Although that injury may be a bad signal with regard to the team’s chances of matching last year’s success, it didn’t seem to bother the Tigers (6-3) at all Saturday night. The team leapt to a big, early lead and never looked back.
Hayden’s relentless full-court pressure is rarely more effective than it was against the Cowboys. Possession after Plateau Valley possession ended up in Hayden’s hands, the ball being whisked down court for a quick layup.
The Tigers were good in the first half, taking a 31-14 lead into the break, but relentless in the second. Hayden dropped 30 points on the Cowboys in the fourth quarter and blew the game from lopsided to ludicrous.
“We have a lot of weapons on this team, but our defense is key,” Hayden coach Eric Hamilton said. “We were aggressive with our defense, and we need it to keep getting better all the time. We still have to improve every game.”
Senior Rachael Koehler and Rolando each scored 15 points to pace the Tigers. Morgan Bell had nine, and Aubree Haskins, Delanie VeDepo and Sam Huffar each had eight. In all, 10 Hayden players contributed with points.
“We are just clicking as a team,” Koehler said. “We know where each other is going to be. It’s just working right now.”