Hayden boys basketball faces tough test at regional tournament
Steamboat Springs — They have to beat them all at some point. At least, that’s what the Hayden High School boys basketball team is telling itself after it was disappointed Sunday by the regional basketball pairings, which were released after a Sunday seeding meeting.
The Tigers play Friday night at Grand Junction Central High School against Sangre De Cristo. If they win, they’ll play Saturday afternoon against either Dolores or Yuma.
The disappointment stems from the inclusion of Yuma in the four-team bracket, the winner of which will earn a ticket to the eight-team state tournament. The Indians finished the season with two losses in their past eight games but still were ranked as one of Class 2A’s very best from beginning to end, securing the No. 2 spot in the final Denver Post poll Feb. 18.
Hayden’s inclusion with highly considered Yuma might mean the Tigers were seeded on the lower end of the eight district champions.
“We’re a little disappointed,” coach Mike Luppes said. “We don’t see specific seedings for the whole deal, Nos. 1 through 32, but from the looks of things, I’m disappointed in where they put us.”
Yuma lost in its district semifinals, falling to Akron, 56-53, and it beat Holyoke, 52-37, to finish third, so it’s actually the third seed in Hayden’s pod, behind Dolores, a district runner-up. Sangre De Cristo, meanwhile, finished fifth in its region.
The Tigers, 20-2, and Indians, 19-2, are two of four teams in 2A with two or fewer losses. Hayden hasn’t lost to a team in its class, falling both times in December to Class 4A No. 1 D’Evelyn in in the Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out championships and to Little Snake River High School, which wrapped up its third consecutive Wyoming Class 1A state championship Saturday.
“A lot of factors go into it,” Luppes said about the seeding process. “I was disappointed. We have a good team. We didn’t get quite the respect we deserved.”
He continued, insisting that his team can’t afford to get caught up with the idea that it was slighted.
“Yuma’s one of the top teams in the state, no doubt about it, but we have to get past Sangre De Cristo first,” he said.
The Thunderbirds finished the season 15-7, beating Del Norte, 68-66, to secure fifth in District 1. The squad is led by 6-foot-0 senior Mitchell Stagner, who scored 17.7 points per game and was at his best in its team’s biggest games, scoring 31 in the last win that got his squad into the regional tournament.
“They’re this far. They’re a good team,” Luppes said. “We are excited to head down to Grand Junction. It’s where we wanted to be, and we’ll play the games as they come.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com
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