Hayden girls basketball falls to Sanford in state tournament opener

Senior Isabella Svoboda goes up for a jumper surrounded by Soroco defenders in a Hayden girls basketball game on Jan. 28, 2023. Earning a spot in the 2A girls basketball state tournament, Hayden fell to Sanford in the first round on Friday, March 3, 2023, in a 49-38 final.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Hayden girls basketball head coach Jeff Schlim said this year’s team — a troop of mature young women who played for each other and never quit — was his all-time favorite to coach.

The No. 19 Tigers reached the 2A girls basketball state tournament this season, traveling all the way to Burlington for the first round against the No. 14 Sanford Mustangs on Friday, March 3. 

Despite showing a lot of heart and intensity for the full four quarters, Hayden was eliminated from the tournament with a 49-38 loss. 

Hayden was behind throughout the game but never fell out of it. Seniors Tessa Booco and Isabella Svoboda led the way with 10 and 8 points, respectively, but the team couldn’t get on a big enough rally.

“The girls played their hearts out. They were within six points most of the game,” Schlim said. “Sanford was stronger than us defensively and stifled our offense a little bit. We had multiple girls score. However, Booco being the only Tiger to reach double digits with 10 points was not enough to take the lead.”

Still, Svoboda and junior Jenna Kleckler earned All-Conference honors with seniors Ema Schlim and Booco being named honorable mention. Jeff Schlim said these are just four examples of how hard the Tigers worked this season, and he believes Hayden girls basketball will continue to be a presence within the conference. 

Hayden junior Jenna Kleckler knocks down a deep 3-pointer during a Hayden girls basketball game against Soroco on Jan. 28, 2023.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

What made this team so unique was its knowledge of the game and its ability to compete under any circumstances.

“They were able to take the reins for themselves for a while and run the games the way they wanted to run them because they were so smart about it,” Schlim said. “That definitely makes my job as a coach much easier.”

Following the game, Schlim’s message to his senior girls revolved around staying positive and remembering they still have their whole lives ahead of them.

He says it has been nothing but a pleasure to coach them over the years and believes their impact on the team will remain forever.

“I’m sad to see my strong senior group leave, but their legacy left behind will continue with next year’s group,” Schlim said. “All four of the seniors are at the top of their class academically and they have bright futures lying ahead for them. They really are the best student athletes any coach can ask for.”

Sanford 49, Hayden 38
S: 10 12 13 14
H:  7  9  12 10

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