Cards nip Tigers in semifinals |

Cards nip Tigers in semifinals

Melinda Mawdsley

The Hayden boys basketball team would like a rematch. The players and coaches didn’t formally ask for one, but the season wasn’t supposed to end in the District 5 semifinals Friday. Hayden wasn’t supposed to lose by three to Grand Valley — a team it had beaten twice already this season — at home.

The Tigers were supposed to make their shots. They were supposed to control the boards. They technically weren’t favored to win as the No. 3 seed, but the No. 2 seed Cardinals were beatable. They looked more vulnerable when star shooting guard Sam McKinley left the game with a knee injury in the second quarter.

Instead of giving up, Grand Valley’s players rallied around each other, however, and won, 47-44, proving what coach Scott Kiburis told them in the locker room at halftime.

“We told them we are more than one player,” he said.

In McKinley’s absence, guards Dylan Culver and Richard Gallegos came to the front and helped carry the Cardinals into the championship against Rangely at 2:30 p.m. today in Hayden.

“I knew I had to step it up,” said Culver, who scored 19 points.

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Grand Valley made 15 shots Friday. Seven were from behind the arc. Hayden had no 3-point baskets, but it would have taken the one Chris Frentress shot in desperation in the final seconds to potentially tie the game.

The shot was on line, but it bounced off the front of the rim. That the Tigers were even in the game was somewhat remarkable. Few, if any, bounces or breaks went their way. When senior Evan Hilling went up for a short jumper with 42 seconds left, that shot almost rimmed out before rolling around the top once and falling in to tie the game at 44-44.

Kiburis said the Cardinals came into Friday’s game with a plan.

“We came out and pressed a bit to get them to go faster and get them out of their rhythm,” he said. “I think it worked.”

Senior Levi Sheldon led Hayden with 12 points. Junior Tyson Sweetser scored 10 off the bench.

Hayden finished the season 17-4.

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