5 Tigers named all league in girls basketball | SteamboatToday.com

5 Tigers named all league in girls basketball

1st-year coach Hamilton named league's best

First-year Hayden girls basketball coach Eric Hamilton was named the Western Slope League coach of the year for guiding his team to finish third in the Class 2A state basketball tournament.

— It was a strange sensation, Hayden High School girls basketball coach Eric Hamilton said.

His basketball team met recently to look forward to next winter’s season. It was the team’s first group function since gathering to celebrate the most successful season in program history, a run that ended in a third-place finish at the Class 2A state basketball tournament.

And, Hamilton noted, it was the first team meeting without girls basketball stalwarts and 2008-09 seniors Holli Salazar, Kylee Sweetser, Caitlin Mahanna, Elaine Cromie and Kylie Harris.

“It was weird at first,” Hamilton said about the meeting, used mostly to establish a summer workout and practice schedule.

Those seniors – along with Hamilton himself – led the way as the team soaked up a wealth of postseason recognition.

Mahanna, Salazar and Sweetser were named to the Western Slope League’s first team.

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Juniors Jarah Woodley and Rachael Koehler earned honorable mention status.

Hamilton earned a little spotlight time himself. The first-year coach was named the league’s coach of the year.

Noteworthy in any league, his honor came in a league that produced three of the top four teams at the state tournament.

“That was pretty neat, but really the icing was going to state and getting to experience everything with the girls,” he said. “That’s where we want to be every year now.”

The season marked Hamilton’s first as a coach of any kind. He turned down multiple offers to be an assistant coach with area schools before finally getting a crack at the top job in Hayden.

As he laid out plans for his second season, his confident attitude hadn’t changed much.

“Next year,” he said, eagerly considering a team that will lose three starters, its top two scorers and its point guard, “we’ll be even better.”

Rams rake in honors

Soroco’s boys basketball team landed four players on all-conference squads. Senior Ryan Tibbetts and junior Cody Miles were named to the first team all-Western Slope team. Senior Bobby Mason and junior Alex Estes earned honorable mention status.

“That’s the best we’ve done since I’ve been here, so that’s pretty good,” Soroco boys coach Sam McLeod said.

Sarajane Rossi was a first-team selection for the Soroco girls team. Traci Schlegel was included in the honorable mention list.

Graig Medvesk and Murphy Smartt were first-teamers for the Hayden boys squad. Seniors Jeremy Engle and Zach Barnes were named honorable mention players.

“Those four were the core of our team. They did a really good job for us,” Hayden boys basketball coach Mike Luppes said. “They all really deserved to be recognized.”