A powerful second-half performance Friday lifted the Hayden High School girls basketball team to today’s regional championship game in Durango.
The Tigers flew past Custer County, 60-35, blowing the game open by outscoring their opponents by 20 points in the second half, 15 in the fourth quarter.
Swink beat Dolores, 45-37, and will face Hayden at 1 p.m. today in Durango.
“The girls feel really good, and they’re excited to play,” Hayden coach Eric Hamilton said. “We are confident about the game, but we’ll have to play solid.”
Hayden turned to its defense to end any Custer County hopes of an upset, locking down after taking a 25-20 lead into halftime. The Tigers switched from a three-quarter-court press that proved breakable to full-court pressure that won the game.
“We put that press on, and really, the girls played awesome,” Hamilton said. “They really got into a rhythm defensively.”
A deep bench helped ensure that Hayden didn’t hurt for scoring. Erin Koehler led the squad with 14 points. She was one of 10 Tigers to get on the board.
The team connected from all corners and cashed in six 3-point shots, two each by Delanie VeDepo and Brette Frentress.
The Tigers scored 22 points in the fourth quarter to put the game on ice.
It will take more play like the team showed in the second half if Hayden is to win today and earn a trip to Pueblo for state for the second time in three years.
Swink beat the top-seeded team in the four-squad regional bracket in its win against Dolores.
“They have an excellent little point guard and a couple of girls about 5-foot-9, and they run the floor pretty good,” Hamilton said. “They’re pretty tough.”
One potential hurdle standing between the Tigers and a run to the state championship did disappear Friday. Defending state champ Paonia, the only Colorado Class 2A squad to beat Hayden this year, lost to Sargent, 46-35.
Meeker, which beat Peyton, 73-63, was the only other team from the Tigers’ district to advance. Rangely lost to Front Range Christian, 64-50.
— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com