Tigers boys basketball advances, plays for state berth Saturday | SteamboatToday.com

Tigers boys basketball advances, plays for state berth Saturday

— The Hayden High School boys basketball team took care of business Friday night, and now it faces its most important test of the season at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Grand Junction, where the Tigers will play Yuma to advance to the Great Eight state basketball tournament.

Hayden, the top seed in its four-team Class 2A regional and sporting a 21-2 record, beat Sangre de Cristo, 53-41, setting up Saturday's showdown with Yuma, considered one of the state's best through much of the season.

Yuma, 20-2, beat Dolores, 57-43, to advance to play Hayden in the regional championship.

"They are quick, fast and aggressive, and it will be a real challenge for us," Tigers coach Mike Luppes said. "It will come down to whether or not we can slow down that quickness and speed and whether or not they can stop our inside game. That's where we should have an advantage."

On Friday, it was that inside game — powered by the athletic tandem of seniors Jorge Valdez and Mark Doolin — that pushed Hayden through to the doorstep of the state tournament.

Hayden answered Sangre de Cristo’s aggressiveness, then opened the game up with a dose of full-court pressure in the second quarter.

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"That was the turning point," Luppes said. "We went into a zone press, then dropped into a zone, and they weren't able to shoot over it or get it inside. We got some turnovers and some easy buckets building up that lead."

The game ended with Hayden's starters on the bench, resting up for Saturday's decisive contest.

Doolin led the way for the Tigers, scoring 24 points and taking advantage of a defense that keyed on slowing Valdez.

Valdez still chipped in eight points, had 10 rebounds and five assists. Paul Laliberte had seven points and six assists, and Dan Engle scored six.

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

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