The Hayden High School boys basketball team celebrates last weekend after locking up the district championship. The squad must win twice this weekend to keep its season alive. Hayden plays Friday in the regional tournament in Grand Junction. The Tigers girls play Friday in Durango.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

The Hayden High School boys basketball team celebrates last weekend after locking up the district championship. The squad must win twice this weekend to keep its season alive. Hayden plays Friday in the regional tournament in Grand Junction. The Tigers girls play Friday in Durango.

Hayden boys basketball team set for regional run, starting Friday

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Mark Doolin passes the ball late in Hayden's district tournament win against Paonia. The Tigers are back in action this weekend for the regional tournament. The boys will play in Grand Junction and the girls in Durango.

Class 2A regional brackets

Boys Region 5

Mesa State College

■ No. 5 Del Norte (13-10)

Del Norte had to battle its was through the District 1 preliminary-round game. After falling to Sargent, Del Norte played its way into the regional tournament by beating two higher-seeded teams to get the fifth and final spot out of its district. The Tigers are led by junior Kaleb Stephens, who averages 13 points per game.

■ No. 2 Denver Christian (18-3)

The Crusaders might be the scariest No. 2 seed in the entire tournament. Denver Christian lost to Denver Lutheran in its district championship game and has lost two of its last three games after winning 14 straight. The Crusaders are led by Alex Terpstra’s 13.6 points per game and the guy behind the bench. Denver Christian coach Dick Katte is Colorado’s all-time leader in wins.

■ No. 3 Ridgway (11-10)

Ridgway beat Dolores in a third-place district game to get into the regional tournament. It’s hard to tell how good the Demons are, coming out of a top-loaded District 3, where Ignacio — a No. 1 seed — breezed through the season. The Demons have been up and down all year, registering a five-game winning streak and a five-game losing streak.

Hayden High School boys basketball coach Mike Luppes will admit this much: Last year heading into the regional tournament, his team lucked out with the way the bracket fell.

Not the case this year.

Hayden opens play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mesa State College in Grand Junction against Del Norte. A win there would set up a monumental showdown at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, most likely against state title contender Denver Christian (18-3).

The school plays Ridgway (11-10) on the other side of the bracket.

“Having a look through all the 2A regional brackets, there isn’t an easy one this year,” Luppes said. “If you’re going to see a good team, you might as well see them there.

“We’ll know we have to be good to get to state.”

The winner of the regional advances to the eight-team state tournament next weekend in Pueblo.

But before Luppes or Hayden can look toward a possible showdown with Denver Christian, they have to deal with a pesky Del Norte team.

The Del Norte Tigers (13-10) got out of the 2A District 1 preliminary-round game before falling in the quarterfinals to Sargent.Del Norte, however, played its way into the regional tournament by beating two higher-seeded teams to win the fifth and final spot out of District 1.

Del Norte is led by guards Kaleb Stephens and Colin Trujillo. Luppes said the key isn’t so much as containing those two as it is limiting the Tigers’ second-chance points.

“We can’t have them having more than one scoring opportunity,” he said.

Should Hayden win, it sets up that likely showdown with Denver Christian, a game that would be a terrific primer for the state tournament.

The Crusaders finished 12-1 in the 2A Mile High Basketball League, most likely the toughest in 2A, and feature Colorado’s all-time-wins leader Dick Katte as coach.

“We know it’s not going to be an easy region,” Luppes said. “It’s a huge challenge we’re really looking forward to.”

— To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or e-mail lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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