Hayden Hayden High School senior Isaac Bridges had the hot hand all night, and for three quarters Friday, the Tigers looked every bit the part of defending league champions.
But Hayden boys hoops coach Mike Luppes will be the first to say it: One player can’t win a game, and four quarters of solid basketball is imperative to success.
The Tigers, playing in their first league game of the season, fell to Hotchkiss, 59-42, despite facing a 22-point deficit at halftime.
Hayden and Hotchkiss went toe-to-toe through the first quarter, tying at 11 apiece. But the Bulldogs quickly asserted themselves in the second, jumping out on a 7-0 run that turned into a 25-3 run when the teams retired to the locker rooms after two periods.
“We did not play a very good first half,” Luppes said. “All of us were disappointed in the way we played that first half. They came and played much better in the second half.”
Led by Bridges after halftime, Hayden made things interesting at the start of the fourth quarter, trimming away at Hotchkiss’ lead. At the end of the third quarter, the Tigers trailed by just 13 and got within 11 with about six minutes left, but the double-digit hole held strong.
Bridges poured in a game-high 22 points. Hotchkiss’ collective effort, however, made the difference.
Three Bulldogs scored in double figures and six players total had five or more points. Inside, 6-foot-6 center Chris Allen swallowed up eight rebounds before leaving at halftime to get stitches on his eyebrow. River Panish, Andrew Tiedeman and Clayton Oxford combined to score 36 of Hotchkiss’ points.
“They want to get some wins without a doubt,” Luppes said. “Those seniors are used to winning. But they’ve kept a pretty good attitude.”
Dan Engle pitched in nine points and six rebounds, but no other Hayden player scored more than four on Friday night.
The good news for Hayden is that nine league games remain on the season to turn things around. The bad news is the Tigers are now 1-8 in 2013-14 season, one of their roughest starts in years.
Also in the bad news department is Hayden has a less than 24-hour break before hosting Paonia on Saturday afternoon, a tall test for the Tigers, Luppes said.
“We know this is going to be one of our toughest weekends of the year with Paonia and Hotchkiss,” Luppes said. “They are right now, in my mind, the two best teams in the league. We’ve got to keep our heads up.”
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll