Hayden boys hoops advance past Paonia | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden boys hoops advance past Paonia

— With a dramatic flourish, the Hayden High School boys basketball team advanced Friday to play Saturday for the district championship at 2:30 p.m. in Paonia against Meeker.

The Tigers trailed in the tournament's semifinals against host Paonia, 20-6, early in the second quarter but bounced back so big they overtook the Eagles by the end of that quarter and held on for a 60-47 victory.

"We missed so many easy shots in the first quarter, it was unbelievable," coach Mike Luppes said. "We're talking layups, bunnies, put backs — just easy shots time after time. It wasn't a pretty start, but we started shooting the ball and really tightened up defensively, and we caught up in a hurry."

Jorge Valdez paved the way for Hayden with a huge game. He finished with 28 points, 16 rebounds and three assists. Paul Laliberte, meanwhile, had 15 points, including six fourth-quarter free throws to keep things from getting exciting again. He also had six rebounds.

Aaron Cramer scored six and had six boards, and Mark Doolin scored five and had nine rebounds. Isaac Bridges had four points and four assists.

"Paonia came after us. They were aggressive and attacked, and they did a good job," Luppes said. "We really picked it up defensively, and that was a huge turning point."

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The final two games of the district tournament set up seeding for the following weekend's regional tournament, with Saturday's winner between the Tigers and Cowboys getting District 5's coveted No. 1 seed.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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