Hayden boys basketball prevails at district tournament | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden boys basketball prevails at district tournament

Luke Graham

— Hayden High School boys basketball coach Mike Luppes had a nervousness about him all week.

He cautioned before heading into the district basketball tournament that the Tigers were vulnerable. It wasn't because Hayden isn't good; it was because this was the first time the Tigers entered the tournament as a clear favorite.

No worries, coach.

Hayden led throughout the game Saturday in the district championship, doing enough in the fourth quarter to beat Meeker, 54-51.

"We've put ourselves in as good a position as we can be," Luppes said. "Now, we have to play to our expectations. We have high expectations. We need to now get it done at regionals. We want that trip to state that we've been after all year."

That's the next question. Where will Hayden be seeded in the regional tournament? With eight regional winners, Hayden assuredly will get a No. 1 seed and likely will play in Grand Junction next weekend.

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It's important to look at the other three teams that will fill their region, but it's hard to argue with the Tigers’ credentials.

The team finished 20-2, was perfect in league and saw one of its only losses come to Class 4A's No. 1 D'Evelyn.

Still, that doesn't mean the seeding committee will give the Tigers the benefit of the doubt.

Several of 2A's top teams lost at the district tournaments — including Yuma, Limon and Lutheran — meaning Hayden's chances should only be helped.

"It's all a guessing game for us right now," Luppes said diplomatically. "Hopefully, we get treated well."

Before Hayden could get to regionals, the team had to deal with an old nemesis in Meeker.

The Tigers controlled the game throughout. Hayden led 18-13 after one quarter, 29-26 at half and 41-38 going into the fourth. Hayden extended its lead to as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter before Meeker responded.

The Cowboys tied it with three minutes remaining before the Tigers gained control for the final stretch.

Mark Doolin hit four free throws down the stretch, and Aaron Cramer hit one to seal the win.

Doolin led the Tigers with 26 points and nine rebounds. Jorge Valdez had 14 points and 15 rebounds. Paul Laliberte had five points, and Isaac Bridges added four points and six rebounds.

Despite shooting just 42 percent at the free-throw line, the Tigers were able to weather the Cowboys’ run in what turned out to be a hostile environment.

"Next week, we start with a clean slate," Luppes said. "Nobody knows us. Here, we were the favorite. We were undefeated. No. 1, everyone here was shooting for us, and No. 2, we had the whole gym rooting against us."

The Colorado High School Activities Association will release the Class 2A regional seeds Sunday afternoon.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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