Hayden girls basketball coach Michelle Wilkie talks with her team after practice Friday night. The Tigers hope to build this season after winning just four games last winter.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Hayden girls basketball coach Michelle Wilkie talks with her team after practice Friday night. The Tigers hope to build this season after winning just four games last winter.

Hayden girls basketball hopes to bounce back after 4-win season

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— If no rebuilding takes place during a rebuilding year, it was just a miserable season.

The Hayden High School girls basketball team already has sustained the bruises that came with last year’s 4-15 campaign. Now it’s up to the Tigers to prove they learned a little something.

“We’re still young, but we’re not young and inexperienced,” Hayden coach Michelle Wilkie said. “We have kids who have played with me for three years, and they know what the expectation is. We still have work on seeing the floor and fine-tuning, but it’s a totally different feeling than last year.”

Wilkie said the program has shown its strength with 20 girls going out for basketball this year. Now she’s hoping that strength can manifest itself on the court and in games.

On that front, Hayden returns its leading scorer, Olivia Zehner, and it will rely heavily on her scoring ability throughout the season.

Last year, she piled up the points more by coming up big in a few games rather than scoring consistently all season. She failed to score more than five points in 10 games. She also scored 20 or more twice and averaged 15.2 points over the team’s last five games of the season.

“Consistency is something I need from her, both offensively and defensively,” Wilkie said. “We have several kids who have moved into our area who are strong and aggressive and came from good programs. I look for them to step up, too.”

The team again will be short compared to many of its opponents, and that’s something the Tigers hope to make the best of rather than give in to.

“We’re small, but we’re faster than we were,” Wilkie said. “We’re going to try to capitalize on that defensively and offensively and just have fun.”

Zehner is the team’s only senior, though nine juniors swell the ranks, and half the team comprises underclassmen, many of whom will get their first real cracks at the varsity lineup. Just who that will be remains to be determined, Wilkie said, but there’s plenty of opportunity for players willing to step up and build after last year’s lessons.

“I am always going to be rebuilding, but this year, it’s not starting from scratch,” Wilkie said. “We have a good foundation, and now it’s about making that foundation as strong as possible.

“I’m excited. We have a great group of kids, and we’re going to have a good season.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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