Hayden's Daniel Engle puts up a shot Saturday against D'Evelyn. The Tigers lost the game big but still were happy with their showing in the Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out, where they finished second.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Hayden's Daniel Engle puts up a shot Saturday against D'Evelyn. The Tigers lost the game big but still were happy with their showing in the Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out, where they finished second.

Lopsided loss doesn't rain on Hayden's weekend at Steamboat Shoot-Out

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2012-13 Tigers boys basketball schedule

— Consider the trip to the Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out a fact-finding mission for the Hayden High School boys basketball team.

The Tigers opted to come to Steamboat instead of going to the Meeker Cowboy Shootout, where they’ve competed in recent years, in hopes of finding out whether they could play with the big boys.

Indeed, they can. That much was made obvious throughout the weekend as Hayden fought to Saturday’s Shoot-Out championship game.

The team did learn a bit of sobering news Saturday, however: It doesn’t have much of a chance of winning Colorado’s Class 4A classification.

Hayden couldn’t hang with top 4A power D’Evelyn on Saturday, falling, 76-47, to finish second in the Shoot-Out.

The loss was decisive, but it did little to sway the Tigers from the idea that in their own Class 2A ranks, they’re a team to tangle with.

“I think this weekend will get us more recognition, for sure,” senior guard Paul Laliberte said. “A little recognition is not bad at all. We’ll take that.”

There weren’t many doubters before the weekend, and D’Evelyn left none afterward. The Jaguars were the class of the eight-team shindig. Fans from other schools hung out long past their games just to watch D’Evelyn play Saturday. Sure, plenty cheered for the underdog Tigers, but it was the Jaguars’ show, and they performed for the crowd.

Luke Stratman, an all-state first-team selection a year ago, earned tournament MVP honors, and on Saturday he led his Jaguars against cats of a different stripe, scoring 29 points against Hayden.

“You have to watch Stratman because you don’t want him to drop 50. Then the rest of their guys attack the rim,” Laliberte said.

Stratman found a more-than-capable tag-team partner in Grant Witherspoon, who finished with 28 points and helped set the tone early. He had nine in the first quarter before D’Evelyn jumped to a 34-15 halftime lead.

The team’s pressure took a toll on Hayden throughout the first two quarters. While the Tigers didn’t shirk in the face of elite competition, they didn’t thrive, either.

“We aren’t used to seeing that kind of team speed, and it took us awhile to adjust,” Hayden coach Mike Luppes said. “It wasn’t in our half-court offense or defense, but really in the transition game that they beat us. If we could have cut out half of their transition points, it would have been pretty close.”

Hayden was more competitive in the second half, scoring 16 in each of the final two quarters. Laliberte led the team with 22 and was at his best in the fourth, when he had 12.

Jorge Valdez also added 15 points.

The game never quite turned into a rout, but the lead never was in danger, either. In the end, both teams seemed to accept what they came away with. D’Evelyn wowed onlookers and proved itself the tournament’s best, and Hayden, never that concerned about winning the 4A championship anyway, came away with new confidence.

“We knew they were going to be good, but we didn’t want to roll over like some other teams have,” Laliberte said. “We hung in there the whole game. I was pretty proud. Even though we lost by 30, I was proud.”

Hayden returns to the court Friday at home against Encampment, Wyo.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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