Hayden The Hayden High School boys basketball team decisively proved Friday night that injuries to most of its starting lineup were what sank the team to a blowout heavy 1-5 start to the season.
Playing at home against West Grand, Hayden proved equally that simply having a few of those players back in the lineup isn’t enough to make the team competitive for four quarters. The Tigers fell, 62-40, in Hayden.
“It ended up a lopsided loss, but our conditioning is not anywhere near where it needs to be, and we felt that,” Hayden coach Mike Luppes said. “That makes it tough.”
The Tigers matched a senior-heavy Mustangs squad point for point in the first half, and things were knotted at 24 at the break. They simply couldn’t keep up in the second.
It’s no wonder why. Relying on a pair of seniors seeing their first varsity action of the season and a bench as shallow as the kiddie pool, Hayden wilted when West Grand came up with a second-half charge.
Senior Isaac Bridges poured in 14 points for Hayden after missing the season’s first six games with a knee injury. Greg Frentress, just recovered from lingering football injuries, and Dan Engle added nine each, and Thomas Rauch scored eight.
Junior guard Jack Redmond missed the game with an illness, and Hayden played with just two players on the bench.
“In the second half, they started hitting some 3-pointers, but a lot of it was what we weren't doing,” Luppes said. “We didn’t have the legs for shots. We got lazy and dribbled right in front of people, and we didn’t have crisp passing.”
Hayden visibly wore out as the game wore on, growing a step slow on defense and cumbersome on offense.
It wasn’t all about running out of gas, however. West Grand brought high hopes into Hayden, and a lineup stacked with six seniors.
Casey Gore led West Grand with 14 while Leo Pesch and Nick Ritschard each had 13.
Foul trouble factored into the first half, but that didn’t keep West Grand coach Leo Pesch — father to Pesch the player — from driving his team to finish the game.
Pesch, a fixture on the West Grand boys bench for 28 years, won his 300th game Friday night.
“I was very pleased with how we finished,” Pesch said. “Hayden did a good job. They’re much improved, and their kids played hard.”
With so few players who’ve logged so few minutes this season, Friday was an important step for Hayden, but a win proved too much to ask for.
“It was just a matter of time until we pulled away,” Pesch said.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9
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