Hayden boys blast past Del Norte, face tough test today

— The Hayden High School boys basketball team got 16 points from Mark Doolin and 15 from Brandon Ray on Friday to put away Del Norte and earn a spot in the regional finals game, set for 12:30 p.m. today in Grand Junction.

Tigers’ coach Mike Luppes said his squad overcame a string of illnesses thanks to a strong bench performance.

Hayden beat Del Norte, 66-44. Denver Christian won just as easily on the other side of the bracket, beating Ridgway, 83-47.

“That’s going to be a real challenging game,” Luppes said about today’s regional championship. “We have to step it up. They have a real good, balanced ball club.”

Hayden relied on some balance of its own to set today’s stage.

Graig Medvesk scored 13 points and had six assists. Jorge Valdez scored 8 and had eight rebounds, and Ben Williams scored 10 points.

Ray’s 15 points, however, were huge.

“Brandon came in off the bench and played really well,” Luppes said. “He’s been coming in, working hard, hustling and rebounding. We’re really pleased with what he’s been providing.”

Hayden got the upper hand Friday thanks to its ability to convert turnovers and fast-break drives into easy points. It could need to stop just such an offensive approach today.

“Denver Christian likes to push the ball, as well,” Luppes said. “They got a lot of easy baskets. It’s going to be a really challenging game. We’re looking forward to it.”

Only Paonia survived Friday from Hayden’s district, beating Sangre De Cristo, 61-60, in overtime. Rangely and Meeker both lost.

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

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