Yuma overwhelms Hayden, ends Tigers boys basketball season
March 9, 2013
Grand Junction — Things don't often come together the way they did this year for the Hayden High School boys basketball team, with serious talent in the paint and on the perimeter paving the way for an undefeated run through the Western Slope League and a district championship.
Things certainly haven't come apart this season the way they did Saturday. Hayden's offense was nowhere to be found in the deciding minutes of the regional championship game against Yuma, and a special season was rendered especially painful as the Indians won, 50-33, to knock out the Tigers and advance to the state tournament.
"What really hurts is we thought we had them," Hayden coach Mike Luppes said. "We never let up or anything, but there were a couple of times we were in position to win the game, but we didn't close it out."
Hayden had those chances in the third quarter, but Yuma simply proved too much down the stretch, damming the Tigers' typically potent offense the way no one else this season had.
Hayden led 29-26 in the waning moments of the third quarter but, for all practical purposes, did not score again.
Yuma tied the game and took the lead as the third quarter expired, then slowly pulled away during the fourth.
The Indians' Michael Howell scored to make it 35-29 midway through the fourth, then again while wide open under the basket as Hayden tried to dial up its defense with full-court, man-to-man pressure. The deficit was manageable, at least at first, but with its season on the line, Hayden blinked.
"We were relying too much on one-on-one," Hayden senior Mark Doolin said. "In the first half, that was working, and Paul (Laliberte) was doing well. Then they shut that down. We had to rely on our offense, and it just wasn't there today."
The Tigers found success at times working it inside. They led 15-7 late in the first quarter after a Doolin trey and a pair of Jorge Valdez free throws.
Then, after the first of two Sahara-esque offensive quarters — Hayden scored just two points in the second to go with its four-point fourth — they were successful again in the third. Trailing 19-17 at half, Hayden opened the third quarter by pumping it into Valdez, who drew the defense and slipped a sweet assist to Aaron Cramer to tie the game.
Valdez then scored on his own, ditching his defender in the lane with a sick juke and set up another bucket with an offensive rebound. Senior Paul Laliberte drained that shot, a nothing-but-net 3-pointer, and pumped his fist, hollering as he ran down the sideline, his team then up 25-19 and seemingly in control.
"Against this team, we knew we had to go through the posts," Luppes said. "That got us some good looks at the 3-ball, and that's what we wanted."
It was Yuma that had control when it mattered most, however. Hayden haplessly tried to get back into the game as the clock wound down but lost composure. The Tigers were frustrated not to draw more fouls when they did get it inside, then Valdez fouled with 2 minutes, 50 seconds remaining and picked up a technical on his way to the bench.
Hayden settled for quick 3-point tries and lost several key possessions late to poor passes, one of which flew out of bounds and another that was stolen for an easy layup.
"Our defense is what we're built on," Yuma coach Bob Rahm said. "We've done that all year long and been successful at it.
"We're a pretty deep team, and teams that are really good, we try to wear them down, then in the fourth quarter take advantage."
The Tigers finally got on the board in the fourth quarter with just 42 seconds to play, but it came after Yuma had build a 16-point lead, scoring the previous 19 points.
Laliberte led the Tigers with 13 points, eight coming in the first quarter. Doolin had 10, Valdez had five, Cramer had four and Isaac Bridges had one.
Jaden Koenig had 18 points for Yuma, and Howell had 11.
Hayden ends the season 21-3.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com