Photo by Joel Reichenberger
Hayden's Paul Laliberte rushes down the court Friday late in the Tigers' win against Montrose in the Steamboat SpringsShoot-Out. Hayden led big but had to hold on late. That did little to damped the excitement as Hayden, the smallest school in the tournament, earned a chance to play for the championship at 4 p.m. Saturday.
2012-13 Tigers boys basketball schedule
- Nov. 29: Hayden 65, Soroco 45
- Dec. 6: Hayden 72, Green River, Wyo., 57 at Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out
- Dec. 7: Hayden 66, Montrose 64 at Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out
- Dec. 8: D’Evelyn 76, Hayden 47 for second at Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out
- Dec. 14: Hayden 62, Encampment, Wyo., 47
- Dec. 15: Little Snake River 56, Hayden 54
- Jan. 11: Hayden 85, West Grand 47
- Jan. 12: Hayden 68, Vail Mountain 29
- Jan. 18: Hayden 58, Hotchkiss 44
- Jan. 19: Hayden 67, Paonia 66
- Jan. 25: Hayden 62, Vail Christian 51
- Jan. 26: Hayden 75, Vail Mountain 40
- Feb. 1: Hayden 49, Rangely 42
- Feb. 2: Haydne 62, Meeker 58
- Feb. 8: Hayden 71, West Grand 52
- Feb. 9: Hayden 61, North Park 35
- Feb. 15: Hayden 74, Plateau Valley 47
- Feb. 16: Hayden 66, De Beque 21
- Feb. 22: Hayden 82, Soroco 44
- March 1: District tournament: Hayden 60, Paonia 47
- March 2: District tournament: Hayden 54, Meeker 51
- March 8: Regional tournament: Hayden 53, Sangre de Criston 41
- March 9: Regional tournament: Yuma 50, Hayden 33
Steamboat Springs For it to be a David vs. Goliath story, one has to accept that the Hayden High School boys basketball team is David.
The evidence is there.
The Tigers hail from the smallest school competing this weekend at the Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out, and that’s not even close. Hayden’s entire enrollment is smaller than any single class at any of the other Colorado schools in the boys bracket.
The boys and their coach, Mike Luppes, are happy to allow teams to buy into that, to assume that a game will be easy because Hayden’s a small town and its high school doesn’t have many students.
“Hopefully, they are overlooking us,” junior point guard Isaac Bridges said.
It’s their game on the court that sells them out, however.
Hayden has run through the Shoot-Out, beating Class 4A Montrose, 66-64, on Friday by playing more like Goliath than David. Now, the Tigers will play for the championship at 4 p.m. Saturday against true big-class heavyweight D’Evelyn, the No. 4 Class 4A team in The Denver Post’s preseason poll.
“This is what we were hoping for,” coach Mike Luppes said. “We feel like we can play with a lot of the people in the state. No one knows we’re around, and that’s OK with us. We’ll take it that way.”
There was nothing small about Hayden’s game Friday. It pulled out a thriller, surviving several point-blank attempts in the waning seconds to escape after having given up a fat second-half lead.
Hayden led by as much as 17 points, that gap built after a furious end to the third quarter.
Montrose closed to within eight, but Jorge Valdez found Aaron Cramer for an easy bucket to make it 10 again. Paul Laliberte then dished two assists, first hitting Valdez for a basket, then Mark Doolin for another, making it 48-36.
Laliberte drained a 3-point shot, and Valdez added two more points by putting back an offensive rebound, setting the score at 53-36.
When they Tigers were on, they were fantastic. Valdez had 13 points to go with 12 boards. Laliberte finished with 17 points, but Doolin was even better with eight rebounds and a team-high 18 points.
He had four 3-point shots in the first half.
“Mark’s a shooter, and when he gets that confidence in his shot, he’s extremely tough from outside,” Luppes said. “We like when he’s firing like that because he’s capable of runs like that all the time.”
Hayden never did manage a knockout blow, and the team almost payed big. Montrose senior Donovan Kattner also scored 18, finding big shots to answer every Hayden surge down the stretch.
Laliberte sank three of four free throws in the last 45 seconds, helping build a five-point lead. The Indians’ Benton Cruz nailed a 3-point shot with 8 seconds remaining; however, and Montrose stole Hayden’s inbound pass, suddenly two feet from the hoop with a chance to tie. It missed two shots before Valdez finally grabbed a rebound and secured the victory.
“That was scary,” Bridges said.
He went on to admit even he’s been surprised by Hayden’s run, but now that they're in the championship game, there's only one focus.
“We came into the tournament hoping to be 2-1,” he said, “but now we’re hoping to win it.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com