Steamboat Springs Hayden boys basketball built a 15-11 first-quarter lead at league-leading Vail Christian on Friday night.
By halftime, the Tigers led 27-26. Then Hayden started to believe as it rode a one-point lead heading into the final period.
But it wasn’t enough. The 8-1 Saints used a 16-9 fourth quarter to down Hayden, a rebuilding program slowly but surely finding some identity on both ends of the floor.
“It was a close game all the way,” Hayden coach Mike Luppes said after the 58-49 loss.
Luppes said his Tigers are getting better in all phases of the game, but against a title contender like Vail Christian, the noticeable improvements just couldn’t create a win.
Dan Engle had a team-high 17 points to go along with nine rebounds. Greg Frentress — a player Luppes was hoping would emerge offensively — had 16 points and eight boards, his best game of the season so far, his coach said.
Isaac Bridges added 10 for Hayden.
“We played a good ball game,” Luppes said. “We’re making progress and slowly getting there. It’s a work in progress.”
Hayden (1-10) next travels to Rangely to play at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll