Steamboat Springs Hours after the game, Hayden High School boys basketball coach Mike Luppes still struggled to make sense of it.
His team didn’t play poorly. In fact, it played well, and several players were flat-out great. Turnovers were low. All the stats were tight.
None of it added up to a win, though. The Tigers fell Friday in the regional tournament, ending their season with a 70-67 loss to Peyton.
“We played a good ballgame,” Luppes said. “We did everything but get the win, and that makes it tough. We’re proud of the way we played, but it’s disappointing because we feel like we should have won that ballgame.”
Junior Paul Laliberte scored 27 points for Hayden despite missing almost the entire third quarter with four fouls. Junior Jorge Valdez had 18 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots. Mark Doolin scored 10, Hunter Johnston had eight and Aaron Cramer had four.
But Peyton’s Ethan Abello scored 28 points. He had 11 in the second quarter to help lift his team to a 13-point halftime lead. Then his squad had just enough down the stretch to check a furious Tiger rally and hold on for the victory.
Johnston helped key the run with six points in the third. Laliberte then poured in 16 in the fourth, and Doolin had all 10 of his in that period.
Hayden pulled to within two but got no closer.
“That’s going to gnaw at us a little bit,” Luppes said. “Give them credit. They played very well. That’s a good ballclub. But if we had just played a little better in the first half or if the game had just been a little longer, we could have won.”
Tiger girls struggle
The Hayden High School girls basketball team struggled in the face of intense pressure Friday. A squad from The Vanguard School took advantage and ran away from the Tigers, cruising to a 62-33 victory in the Class 2A regional basketball tournament at Standley Lake High School.
The loss ended Hayden’s season.
“Vanguard is a really good team, and we just really struggled shutting them down,” Hayden coach Michelle Wilkie said. “We tried a couple of different things, and we just couldn’t get it done.”
The Tigers struggled on both ends of the court. Hayden allowed more than The Vanguard School’s 62 points only twice the season, and that total was 20 points more than what the Tigers usually surrendered.
Hayden’s 33, meanwhile, was nearly 20 less than it usually scores and was tied for the team’s second-lowest offensive output of the season.
Senior Erin Koehler scored 20 in her final game, but all the Tigers struggled to find their touch when it mattered the most.
The game was the first meeting this season between the two teams, though they were both at a season-opening tournament in Meeker. There, Hayden cruised to victory in the eight-team field. The Vanguard School finished fifth.
Friday, the roles were reversed.
“They just got better,” Wilkie said. “They’re a good little ballclub. They’re quick and have good perimeter shooting. They could go far. They play great basketball.
“We had kids taking good shots, but they just weren’t going in. I’m really proud of our girls. They played hard, but we just couldn’t get it done this time.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com