Hayden basketball squads ready for regionals

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Region 7 brackets

Boys

■ No. 1 Resurrection Christian (19-2) vs. No. 4 Akron (15-5), 4:30 p.m. Friday

■ No. 2 Peyton (19-3) vs. No. 3 Hayden (15-7), 7:30 p.m. Friday

■ Winners play at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Girls

■ No. 1 Lyons (10-12) vs. No. 4 Sedgwick County (15-7), 6 p.m. Friday

■ No. 2 Vanguard (18-4) vs. No. 3 Hayden (14-6), 3 p.m. Friday

■ Winners play at 1 p.m. Saturday.

2011-12 Tigers girls basketball schedule

— It didn’t seem to make sense that the Hayden High School boys basketball team liked its placement in the Region 7 basketball bracket. The Tigers were placed with two teams — No. 1 Resurrection Christian and No. 2 Peyton — that spent a good portion of the season ranked in Class 2A’s top five.

But Hayden, seeded third in the four-team Region 7, likes its chances when it opens regional play at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Peyton at Standley Lake High School in Westminster.

“It was like I told my wife,” Tigers coach Mike Luppes said. “If we play this weekend like we did in practice this week, we’ll come out with some big smiles on our face Sunday, or it’s going to be a mighty good team that beats us.”

There are reasons for Luppes’ optimism.

The Tigers are no slouches. They went 15-7 this year and feature five players who can probably play with any team in Class 2A.

But keeping that top five healthy has been the problem. Wednesday’s practice was the first time in more than a month that Hayden has had its full team healthy. Luppes said the practice was spot on.

On Jan. 31, Luppes said he saw what his team could be. That night, Hayden ran Vail Christian out of the gym with an 88-72 win.

“You look at our bracket, and there are three teams in the top 10,” he said. “We’re definitely the underdog. We don’t think we deserve that role, but we have nothing to lose.”

Against Peyton, a team that was on its way to a No. 1 regional seed until it lost to Limon in the District 8 championship game, Hayden will have to shut down a perimeter-oriented team led by junior guard Ethan Abello. Abello averages 22.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

Luppes said the key would be winning the rebounding battle and closing out on Peyton’s shooters.

“I’ve been saying all year we haven’t played our best,” Luppes said. “I’m hoping we get that one chance.”

Girls also like their draw

The Hayden High School girls basketball team appears to be playing its best ball of the season. The team nearly beat top-ranked Paonia — holding a lead for 22 minutes last weekend — and blew out Rangely at the district tournament.

Now, Hayden will look to get back to the state tournament with what appears to be one of the best draws in the Class 2A field.

Third-seeded Hayden opens up with Vanguard Charter at 3 p.m. Friday at Standley Lake High School. The winner will play the winner of No. 1 Lyons and No. 4 Sedgwick County at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“We feel really good about the draw that we have,” Hayden coach Michelle Wilkie said. “We’ve been playing the best ball we’ve played all year. We have a quiet confidence.”

Vanguard is a team with multiple scoring threats, led by Bailey Haist. Haist averages 15.8 points per game.

Wilkie said the key for Hayden will be to get the ball up the court in transition and control the defensive boards. Should the Tigers do that, Wilkie is confident Hayden can find itself in the state playoffs for the second straight season.

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

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