Hayden senior Jorge Valdez waits for his chance to go up with a shot Thursday as the Tigers scored a 72-57 victory against Green River in the opening round of the Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out at Steamboat Springs High School. The win put Hayden in the tournament semifinals. The team plays Montrose at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Hayden senior Jorge Valdez waits for his chance to go up with a shot Thursday as the Tigers scored a 72-57 victory against Green River in the opening round of the Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out at Steamboat Springs High School. The win put Hayden in the tournament semifinals. The team plays Montrose at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Hayden basketball defeats Green River, Wyo., in 1st test of Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out

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— Welcome back, Jorge Valdez.

The Hayden High School senior basketball player made his season debut Thursday in the opening round of the Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out after missing the first game of the season.

And if Thursday’s debut was any indication — a 72-57 win against Green River, Wyo. — Hayden has a lot to look forward to.

“That adds a lot,” Tigers coach Mike Luppes said. “He was eager early and missed some shots. That got better as the game went on. Jorge adds an element that raises our play.”

The senior forward stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 18 points, 12 rebounds, five steals and two blocks.

After averaging 12 points and 12 rebounds last year, Valdez looked even better Thursday.

Valdez helped stake the Tigers to a 14-7 early lead that Hayden extended to 36-22 at halftime.

“I was so excited to get back and play well,” Valdez said. “I was nervous because it’s a big tournament and it’s my first game. I was a little shaken up. I forgot how much running it was. But it will get there.”

Hayden used Valdez’s return to exploit mismatches throughout the night. Along with Mark Doolin down low, Green River struggled to contain Hayden’s inside-out game.

The Tigers created turnovers and out-rebounded the Wolves, 24-12, in the first half.

Green River, however made a run in the fourth quarter. The Wolves pressed the Tigers and got several easy buckets.

Green River cut it to 57-52 with 4 minutes, 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter, before Doolin and Valdez got back-to-back layups to extend it to 61-52. Hayden guard Paul Laliberte hit 10 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Laliberte led all scorers with 21. Doolin added 13 to go along with seven rebounds. Junior Isaac Bridges scored 11 and had three blocks.

“I’d say we played at a 5 or a 6,” Luppes said. “We have a number of areas where we have to improve.”

The Shoot-Out will provide those. Hayden came to the tournament in search of competition.

It will get that in its next game. The team plays Montrose at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

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

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