Hayden’s Isaac Bridges drives the ball Saturday at the district tournament in Kremmling. The Tigers defeated the Paonia Eagles in an easy 73-57 win.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Hayden’s Isaac Bridges drives the ball Saturday at the district tournament in Kremmling. The Tigers defeated the Paonia Eagles in an easy 73-57 win.

Hayden boys hoops dominates against Paonia

— There are times like Friday against West Grand when the Hayden High School boys basketball team can be frustrating. 

Turnovers and a lack of flow highlight game play. 

Then there are games like Saturday’s. 

Hayden dominated the glass, got out and ran and easily wound up with a 73-57 win against Paonia. 

The Tigers will be the third seed out of District 5 and will play at Standley Lake High School on Friday and Saturday. 

Game times and brackets will be released Sunday. 

“Oh yeah, that’s fun,” said Hayden point guard Hunter Johnston, who initiated a fast-moving game Saturday. “It was run and gun.” 

Whereas West Grand was able to slow the game down and get Hayden out of its flow Friday, the Tigers dictated the pace Saturday. 

It started up front where forwards Mark Doolin and Jorge Valdez simply dominated. 

Doolin and Valdez combined for 38 points and 24 rebounds. 

“Jorge was an animal today,” Hayden coach Mike Luppes said about his senior forward, who had 19 points, 15 rebounds and five steals. “He just dominated things down low.”

Still, early on, there was a game to be had. The Eagles led early and were able to keep pace with the Tigers for most of the first half. 

Hayden took a 39-32 lead into halftime. And that’s as close as it would get. 

The Tigers started the third quarter on a 7-0 run to take a 46-32 lead. From there, Hayden was able to get baskets in transition or run the offense through Doolin and Valdez down low. 

At the beginning of the third quarter, “we got in the huddle and were like, ‘Let’s bury these guys,’” said Johnston, who also had five assists. “We really didn’t want it to be a close game.” 

Valdez and Doolin each finished with 19 points. Johnston added 16, and Paul Laliberte had 13. 

Hayden now prepares for the regional tournament Friday and Saturday. Although the brackets and teams aren’t known, the consensus Saturday was that finishing third in the District 5 tournament wasn’t a horrible thing. 

Had Hayden lost, the team likely would have seen top-seeded Denver Christian. Had the team finished second, Hayden likely would have seen Denver Lutheran, a school that drops down from 3A to play in the 2A playoffs. 

“We’re getting better and better at playing the way we want all the time,” Luppes said. “Our offense has to go through our post. Our posts don’t have to shoot it, but the ball has to go through them. Today, you saw that.” 

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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