Hayden girls basketball overcomes 2nd-half lapse to beat West Grand | CraigDailyPress.com

Hayden girls basketball overcomes 2nd-half lapse to beat West Grand

Hayden freshman Grace Wilkie eyes a loose ball Friday against West Grand. At their best, the Tigers won those races and dominated the Mustangs with a fast, fluid pace and a tough defense. Hayden wasn't always that good but still held on for a 41-32 victory.
Joel Reichenberger

— For sections of Friday night’s game, the Hayden High School girls basketball team looked gritty and explosive. Other times, the squad looked unconfident and indecisive.

It all added up to a win, however, as the Tigers opened their 2014 varsity schedule with a 41-32 victory against visiting West Grand.

Hayden dominated the first half, leading 23-6 at the break, but ended up needing several big buckets in the waning moments to hold off the Mustangs.

“We were having fun,” senior Olivia Zehner said. “We were communicating. It wasn’t stressing about what the other team was doing. It was all about having fun.”

Inexperience may have hurt Hayden at times Friday, but its youth also came through in many ways.

The Tigers got a game-high 11 points from junior Chancey Graham, then eight from Taylor Hagar while freshman Grace Wilkie added seven. Senior Olivia Zehner scored six.

Hayden’s defense was smothering in the first half, and its offense was fluid and effective. The game appeared well out of reach early in the third quarter, but West Grand made it to double digits, then kept pecking away at Hayden’s lead.

Bailey Monnahan had 10 points to lead the Mustangs, and Peyton Bodemann and Gabby Wilson each scored seven.

As the Mustangs changed their tactics, the Tigers cowered in the face of a full-court press. Even when they did break through, they too often slowed up, looking for a pass rather than dribbling to safety. Passes bounced off hands, dribbles flew off feet, and West Grand, left for dead early, pulled within six.

“We got a little tentative, and we need to work on handling pressure,” coach Michelle Wilkie said. “The girls were playing nervous, playing scared. I kept telling them we have to play hard all the time.”

One final Hayden surge put the game away. Graham put back an offensive rebound to make the lead nine points, then Laura Johnson made a shot and drew a foul, pushing the advantage to eight to check West Grand yet again.

The Tigers, 2-4, are back in action Saturday as they hit the road to play Encampment, Wyo.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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