Hayden’s Kyra Rolando draws a foul while driving to the basket in Saturday’s district championship game. The Tigers lost, 34-33.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Hayden’s Kyra Rolando draws a foul while driving to the basket in Saturday’s district championship game. The Tigers lost, 34-33.

Hayden girls basketball just short vs. Paonia

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Game statistics

Paonia Girls 34, Hayden 33

Hayden 4-10-11-8 — 33

Paonia 9-7-12-6 — 34

Hayden — Sierra Ehlers 0 4-6 4, Kyra Rolando 2 0-1 4, Morgan Bell 0 0-2 0, Delanie VeDepo 1 2-3 5, Aubree Haskins 2 1-2 6, Erin Koehler 5 3-4 14. Totals 10 10-18 33.

Paonia — Jessica Altman 3 1-4 8, Carson Pipher 1 0-0 2, Chelsy Reed 3 1-4 8, Kayla Wingfield 3 2-4 8, Annavah Kropp 1 0-0 2, Ce’rra Carsten 2 0-0 5, Alexandria Farnsworth 0 1-2 1. Totals 13 5-14 34.

3-pointers: Hayden (3) — VeDepo, Koehler, Haskins. Paonia (3) — Altman, Reed, Carsten.

— It wasn’t the kind of game either team hopes to put forward in the next two weeks, but Paonia found just a little more to be happy about Saturday, outlasting the Hayden High School girls basketball team, 34-33, in Hayden to win the district championship.

The Tigers were much more competitive than they were in a rout against the same team last month, but Eagles’ sophomore Kayla Wingfield made two free throws with 10.9 seconds remaining to dash Hayden’s hopes of an upset.

“This one’s going to sting, but the girls will be all right,” Hayden coach Eric Hamilton said. “We have to get our heads up because the Great 8 is where we want to be.”

The result sent Paonia, as the District 5 champ, to a regional tournament in Grand Junction, and Hayden to Durango, where the team will face Custer County, Division 1’s third finisher.

Winners from those four-team brackets advance to the eight-team state tournament, the Great 8.

“We have a heck of a road trip ahead of us,” Hamilton said.

Wingfield’s free throws stood out, not only because they won the game, but also because they went in. Paonia tortured Hayden throughout the game with its defense, forcing the Tigers into at times constant turnovers.

The Eagles had only a little more success cracking Hayden’s defense, however, and shot the ball poorly, particularly from the free-throw line.

Before Wingfield, who came off the bench, won the game, Paonia was just 3-of-12 from the free-throw line.

“Both teams were playing pretty tough D,” Paonia coach Scott Rienks said. “Hayden came out in a man-to-man defense. Last time we played them they didn’t do any of that, so it was a real surprise. That threw us off.”

Hayden scored just enough to stay in the game.

The Tigers were slow and foul- and turnover-prone in the first half, at one point having racked up 10 fouls to Paonia’s three. Erin Koehler hit a 3-point shot to pull the team within two, 14-12, late in the second quarter, however.

“I’ve been working on it,” said a grinning Koehler, who only late this season has started drifting outside the paint.

She finished with 14 points to lead the team.

Sierra Ehlers added two free throws to keep Hayden within 2 at halftime.

When Paonia stretched the lead to 6 in the third quarter, Hayden’s Aubree Haskins banked in a half-court 3-point shot as time expired to bring it back to three.

Hayden was at its best early in the fourth. Haskins scored again to cut it to 2, and Koehler dropped in a bucket after an assist from Kyra Rolando to tie the game.

Hayden even led, going up 30-28 on two more Ehlers free throws, and by one, 33-32, when Koehler made one of two free throws with 27 seconds remaining in the game.

“That’s a lot of pressure shooting those free throws,” Koehler said. “It’s hard. The crowd’s going crazy, and your legs are shaking. Give (Wingfield) credit for making both of those.”

— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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