Tigers win sets up Soroco showdown | SteamboatToday.com

Tigers win sets up Soroco showdown

Hayden senior Jessika Hockett pulls up for a shot on Monday as the Tigers ran over Caprock Academy in the first round of the district tournament. Hayden's back in action on Wednesday, when it will travel to play Soroco.

— The stage is set for another clash between the Hayden and Soroco high school girls basketball teams after the Tigers took care of business Monday afternoon as they opened play in the District 5 tournament.

Hayden easily outpaced Caprock Academy, winning at home 57-15.

That means the team will now travel cross-county to Oak Creek for a Wednesday game at Soroco High School. The time hadn't yet been determined at press time Monday.

The Tigers, now 7-12 on the season, will face a tall task. Soroco is 17-2 and ranked No. 6 in the state by coaches and media at chsaanow.com. The Rams cruised to win the last time the teams met.

Hayden was without its two top scorers in that game, seniors Darian Murphy and Grace Wilkie, who sat out with the flu, so the Tigers are hoping that score only means so much.

"It'll be a different game," Murphy said. "I'm hoping we play as a team. We have to be aggressive and play as a team. If we do, we can give them a run for their money and show them something."

Alex Camilletti led all scorers with 11 points. Murphy had 10, Grace Wilkie eight and Kyra Bennett seven.

Playing with the kind of depth demonstrated Monday would be a good first step for Hayden against Soroco. The Tigers got points from nine different scorers and, once their starters had built a sufficient lead, used the game to season underclassmen.

It was more than just letting players off the bench and into the game. Coach Michelle Wilkie offered intensive coaching in the huddles during timeouts and even when Caprock shot free throws.

"We had a lot of our younger girls in, and we were trying to help them understand what their job is," Wilkie said. "We haven't done a lot of that. They play each other, but we all cheat when we play each other. We know the offense and everything."

Soroco finished No. 2 in the district, losing only to the District 5 champ and Class 2A state No. 1 Paonia. That earned the Rams a bye in the first round of districts.

The Rams have state tournament aspirations, but those will go up in smoke if they stumble at home against Hayden. It's all on the line for both teams Wednesday. The loser is done for the season, while the winner will advance to the tourney semifinals to play either No. 3 seed Meeker or No. 6 West Grand.

A win in that semifinal would ensure at least one more weekend of basketball in the regional tournament. Each district this season will qualify three teams to regionals, so a loss in the semifinal would make the consolation game a must-win.

Of course, Wednesday’s game is also a must-win.

"We have nothing to lose," Wilkie said. "These kids have nothing to lose. We have four seniors, and they want to go out and go out hard, to be remembered. That's going to be our goal."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9