Hayden overpowers Soroco in boys basketball opener | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden overpowers Soroco in boys basketball opener

Hayden's Cutter Barrett hollers as Soroco's Nic Paxton drives down the court Thursday as the Tigers and Rams clashed in Oak Creek. Hayden shouted loudest in the game, winning 65-45.

— It's a new season, the Soroco High School boys basketball team said Thursday night.

The Rams return a ton of experience from last season, and although that was a rough affair, with the season unwinding down the stretch, this season is full of potential, junior Matt Regan said.

"Our expectations are high," he added.

On Thursday, at least, Soroco seemed stuck in last year. Hayden didn't quite dominate the game (the season opener for both teams), but the Tigers did control things and stretched their lead in the fourth quarter to make things comfortable.

Hayden was too big and too talented for Soroco, delaying at least for a night the Rams' resurgence by virtue of a 65-45 victory in Oak Creek.

"We're 1-0," said Hayden coach Mike Luppes when asked to focus on his team's highlights.

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The Tigers weren't exactly crisp — this isn't what they hope midseason form looks like — but Luppes didn't have to look far to find more legitimate highlights.

Soroco played without 6-foot-5 junior Ryan Jeep, and that absence only sought to make more obvious Hayden's advantage inside the paint. There, the Tigers controlled a comfortable rebounding edge even without senior Jorge Valdez, who's expected back for the remainder of the team's season.

Senior forward Mark Doolin scored 12 points.

Hayden was excellent on the perimeter, as well, where senior Paul Laliberte poured in a game-high 24 points, scoring in the flow of the offense.

"We did some really good things in some spurts, and in others, it looked like it was our first game," Luppes said. "When we had good ball movement, when we reversed the ball, good things happened. Other times, it seemed like we forgot how we scored so easily."

Hayden took over in the first quarter, going up 16-9. Soroco hung tough through the second and into the third, however, holding the gap to single digits at halftime. The Tigers may have been streaky, but they streaked far more often than the Rams, and the deficit grew steadily.

Hayden held Nic Paxton, one of Soroco's top returning scorers, without a point in the first half. He finished with seven. Junior Bjorn Carlson provided a spark down low and had eight points for Soroco while guard Regan led the way helping to fill in for Jeep down low. He scored 11.

"We battled, and we kept it competitive, at least through 3 1/2 quarters," first-year Soroco coach Jake Eskridge said. "We stopped doing some of the little things, like setting screens. Then we got tired, and we got sloppy.

"I did like our intensity. I liked our fight. That intensity is something I haven't seen here in a while."

Tournaments now await both teams next week. Hayden plays at the Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out, and Soroco will travel to Meeker.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com