Pueblo In the state tournament, you need things to fall in your favor to be successful. Such was not the case for the Hayden High School girls basketball team, which lost, 63-56, to Evangelical Christian Academy in the first round of the Class 2A state tournament Thursday in Pueblo.
The Eagles used a huge third-quarter run and a tough 1-3-1 press to stymie the Tigers and force turnovers at their own end of the court, leading to easy buckets.
Hayden continually played hard despite the nagging press, working on the defensive end. Coach Eric Hamilton pointed out senior guard Kyra Rolando for her work on defense.
Erin Koehler found herself in early foul trouble, picking up two fouls in the first quarter but re-emerged in the second quarter to give Hayden its first lead of the game with 50 seconds remaining in the half.
The Tigers held Evangelical Christian to 22 first-half points and rode their defensive momentum to a 24-22 lead at the half.
The lead quickly disappeared as the Eagles opened up the second half with an 11-1 run. Hayden had trouble containing guard Heidi Mann, who paced the Eagles with 18 points, 11 of them coming in the second half.
“The run took the wind out of us a little bit, but we had a chance in the fourth quarter to pound it out,” Hamilton said.
Hayden had a chance to seize the game in the fourth quarter behind Brette Frentress, who scored 10 points in the quarter. Koehler also chipped in 7 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough as the Eagles hit timely free throws to keep the lead.
Frentress finished with a team-high 17 points, with Koehler adding 11. Aubree Haskins also scored in double digits, finishing with 13 for the Tigers.
“In the state tournament, you need things to fall your way,” Hamilton said. “We have an awesome bunch of kids who fight like heck, but we got beat by a great team, so hats off to them.”
With Hayden gaining momentum as the third quarter was coming to a close, Mann found herself alone to tip in a missed shot just as the buzzer sounded. The tip-in capped off a 24-point third quarter by the Eagles.
The Tigers fought back to outscore the Eagles in the fourth, 20-17, but came up short on key shots to seriously threaten at the end. Evangelical Christian hit six free throws in the quarter to keep the lead.
“We have a lot of seniors who have great character, worked hard and have been dedicated to this program,” Hamilton said.
Hayden will play at 1:15 p.m. today vs. Holyoke, who was defeated earlier in the evening by Sedgwick County, 48-37. The Tigers still have the opportunity to play in the fifth-place game with a win against Holyoke.