Tigers boys basketball gears up for league title fight | SteamboatToday.com

Tigers boys basketball gears up for league title fight

Hayden faces 1 of final regular-season hurdles in Plateau Valley

— At least on paper, tests have been few and far between for the Hayden High School boys basketball team.

The team, 11-1, hasn't won a game by fewer than 10 points all season and hasn't had an opponent stay within 15 since a victory at Vail Christian on Jan. 11.

The Tigers crushed them by 24 in a Tuesday night rematch.

That should all change to­­night as Hayden travels for a 7 p.m. game against 10-2 Plateau Val­ley, the Tigers' main late-season rival for the Western Slope League crown.

Hayden returns home Sat­urday for another tough showdown, this one a 5:30 p.m. contest against Paonia.

"This has been my red-letter week all season," Tigers coach Mike Luppes said. "Vail Chris­tian, Plateau Valley and Paonia, they were my preseason picks to be right up there with us."

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As the season has played out, only Plateau Valley fits that description, and the Tigers hope to take care of that today.

The Cowboys are led by junior Teddy Grundy, who has established himself as one of the best players in the league. Averaging 21 points a game, the guard can score inside and out, hitting four 3-pointers to lift his team over Ridgeway two weeks ago. He scored 27 in that game and then scored 23 last week in a win against Vail Christian.

"He's just a good, versatile athlete who doesn't take bad shots," Luppes said. "We have several ideas how we want to work with him. Last year, we did a really good job against these guys. We played our best half of basketball for the whole season against Plateau Valley. We shut them down in the first half. We're going in with the same game plan this time."

Even with a win, Hayden would not be out of the woods. Paonia has proven it has a potent offense, racking up 83 points against Soroco and 100 against De Beque.

The Tigers also still have West Grand on the schedule, one of two league teams to have beaten Plateau Valley. Meeker, the other, at 9-3, stands ready to step into the league's top spot should Hayden suffer a late-season swoon.

Unexpected dips haven't been a trademark of this Tiger team, as they have with other recent vintages, however.

Luppes used to decry his team's habit of playing to the level of its opponent. A month of dominance has put that trait to rest for the time being. Thanks to consistent play from two of the league's top guards, Hayden's Graig Medvesk, averaging 18.3 points a game, and Ben Williams, averaging 13.8, as well as huge leaps in production from sophomore forwards Mark Doolin and Jorge Valdez and senior guard Hunter Johnston, the Tigers are in the midst of what they hope is a long streak of their best basketball.

"We've gotten a lot more consistent, which is something we worked towards," Luppes said.

"I was optimistic we would be in a good position this time of year, but I thought it would take us a little longer to get to the point we're at now."

If you go

What: Hayden High School boys basketball at Plateau Valley

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Today in Collbran

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