Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Joel here.
Steamboat Springs Before the season, I’d have told you this Hayden High School boys basketball team should walk away from a loss in the regional championship game happy to have been good enough to play in the regional championship game.
It’s hard not to feel a little disappointed now that the team has, in fact, lost in the regional championship game, however.
Is that fair? What lens do we view this team and this season through? The one from the preseason, when there was a team with a couple of incredibly talented guards, but few other players who would even have been allowed to suit up on previous varsity teams?
Or should we remember this as a team that rolled through the meat of its schedule, going weeks at times without a challenging game?
I don’t know, and there are a few reasons it probably doesn’t matter.
A big one of those reasons is Denver Christian, which on Saturday proved to be a really talented basketball team that would have given fits to any compilation of Hayden players throughout the years.
Programs can wait years, decades even, for things to come together in a way that allows a team to make a run at the state tournament.
So many times, it just doesn’t work.
Last year, Hayden had the experienced forwards it would have needed to knock off a team like Denver Christian. The best of that bunch got hurt in the waning moments of the regional championship victory, however, and the team struggled at state.
Things just didn’t quite work out for Hayden last year, and without those big guys to complement guards such as Graig Medvesk and Ben Williams, I wasn’t so sure they’d work out this year, either.
I didn’t take into account a few things.
I didn’t consider how truly dominating Medvesk could become at times.
And I didn’t consider the development of a pair of sophomore forwards, Mark Doolin and Jorge Valdez. Neither was especially tall, but both proved effective.
Both are talented and are big parts of how Hayden played as well as it did this season, but neither is built to thrive against a team with tall, powerful low-post players, like Denver Christian.
Things didn’t quite work out for Hayden this year.
The Tigers aren’t going away. The team loses nine players off its varsity roster, but of the three who return — Hunter Johnston will join Doolin and Valdez — all thrived and received big minutes this season and should be even better next season.
Without Medvesk, Williams and those seniors, it’s hard to predict another really strong Hayden team.
But I’ve been wrong before — this season, in fact — so who knows. Hayden appears to be generating enough good players that the right combination and the right circumstances don’t seem far off.
It wasn’t quite right this year, but this was a team that took huge steps, and that’s what we should remember.