Photo by Joel Reichenberger
Hayden's Paul Laliberte looks to thread the ball between two Vail Christian defenders Saturday. The junior scored 18 points to lead the Tigers to a win.
2011-12 Tigers boys basketball schedule
- Dec. 8 to 10: Cowboy Shootout in Meeker
- Dec. 8: Hayden 43, Crested Butte 42
- Dec. 9: Meeker 66, Hayden 35
- Dec. 16: Hayden 59, North Park 41
- Dec. 17: Little Snake River 66, Hayden 53
- Jan. 6: Meeker 51, Hayden 42
- Jan. 10: Hayden 53, Vail Mountain 41
- Jan. 13: West Grand 68, Hayden 55
- Jan. 14: Hayden 70, North Park 45
- Jan. 20: Hayden 64, De Beque 36
- Jan. 21: Hayden 59, Vail Christian 50
- Jan. 27: Hayden 59, Soroco 40
- Jan. 28: Hayden 74, Rangely 60
- Jan. 31: Hayden 88, Vail Christian 72
- Feb. 3: Plateau Valley 79, Hayden 66
- Feb. 4: Hayden 75, Paonia 67
- Feb. 10: Hayden 69, Soroco 53
- Feb. 11: Hayden 61, West Grand 55
- Feb. 17: Hayden wins through forfeit again Vail Mountain
- Feb. 21: Hayden 73, Soroco 53
- Feb. 24: District Tournament: West Grand 58, Hayden 55
- Feb. 25: District Tournament: Hayden 73, Paonia 57
- March 2 and 3: at Regional Tournament
Hayden Hello, Hayden!
Wobbling after a 2-4 start to the season, the Hayden High School boys basketball team showed Saturday that it had bounced back in a big way, leading down to the wire to win in a crucial test against a strong Vail Christian squad, 59-50.
The Tigers shot well when they had to, were clutch from the free-throw line when it mattered and strong defensively throughout the night, all paving the way for a huge victory for a squad that feels it’s coming together at just the right time.
“We’re not forcing things as much as we were,” said junior Mark Doolin, who scored 16 points. “We are starting to play team ball, and we’re all coming together.”
A big part of Hayden’s success is junior guard Paul Laliberte, who in just two games has endeared himself in a huge way to the Tiger faithful. Laliberte was held out for the first half of the season after transferring from Moffat County High School because of state rules. After being limited for months to practice and then a few junior varsity games, Laliberte led his team in scoring in a Friday win against De Beque, and Saturday he came up with some of the game’s most pivotal plays.
He finished with 18 points, again leading the team. He sank a 3-point shot to open the game and added three consecutive free throws while he was fouled shooting another. A sweet 12-foot pull-up made it 32-30 midway through the second quarter, and he sank another trey after ditching his defender with a cruel crossover in the third quarter, with that swish making it 44-41.
He then made six consecutive free throws in the game’s final two minutes, helping pull the Tigers from a 52-50 nail-biter to the 59-50 final score.
“He played in the summer with us, too, and it just feels natural having him out there,” Doolin said.
As important as what Laliberte provided himself on the scoreboard is what his addition does to the rest of the team. A sharpshooting guard helped take pressure off senior point guard Hunter Johnston. It helped pull defenders out from the lane and free up junior forwards Jorge Valdez and Doolin. And it helped firm up the Tigers bench, giving coach Mike Luppes more options to shift to as the game wore on.
“Paul’s obviously got some basketball talent, but he also complements everything,” Luppes said. “He takes the pressure off everyone else a little bit and every position’s a threat.”
On Saturday, that was part of a big-time team effort in the win. Valdez scored 10 points and helped dominate on the glass, where he had 15 rebounds. Doolin also logged a double-double, adding 10 boards to his 16 points, and Aaron Kramer had nine rebounds to go along with 5 points.
Now the team hopes it can carry that momentum through a pair of home games next weekend on Friday against Soroco and Saturday versus Rangely.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com