‘I do what I can’
Tigers start league season on the right foot
Hayden — The Tigers need to get hungry.
On Friday and Saturday, the Hayden High School boys basketball team let West Grand and Coal Ridge hang around longer than they should have considering Hayden’s obvious advantage in talent.
The Tigers won both games by double digits but didn’t pull away until the second half in either.
“The last two nights, we’ve had really good first quarters and really bad second quarters,” coach Shawn Baumgartner said. “We’ve had great third quarters and so-so fourth quarters. We’ve got to put teams away when we can.”
Hayden defeated West Grand, 47-31, on Friday, getting 12 points each from junior Bryan Richards and senior Keenan Bruchez. Senior Tyson Letlow added nine points, but the Tigers were ahead only one point at halftime before eventually winning by 16.
On Saturday, Coal Ridge, a new high school with only freshmen and sophomores, also trailed Hayden by just one point at halftime before the Tigers won, 55-40.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” Richards said about the new Western Slope League team in New Castle. “We knew they had a couple good scorers.”
Despite their youth and lack of size, the Titans played with the much taller and more athletic Tigers for 2 1/2 quarters of Saturday’s game.
Midway through the third quarter, however, junior Dave Gullet converted a three-point play. On Hayden’s next possession, Richards drew contact on his basket. He didn’t make his free throw, but senior Tyson Sweetser got the rebound, drew another foul and made his free throws.
In a matter of 30 seconds, Hayden extended a six-point lead to 13 points and never looked back.
Despite foul trouble, Bruchez finished with 10 points. Sweetser added 10, getting several easy looks from the top of the key against the much shorter Titans. Richards led Hayden with 17 points, making outside shots and working inside when needed.
“I do what I can,” Richards said. “I try to go inside and get some rebounds and shoot from the perimeter when I can.”
Richards, who is 6-foot-2, finds himself up against shorter guards or taller, slower forwards or posts. The match-up problem he creates has been a blessing for the Tigers, who needed to fill the perimeter scoring void left by Evan Hilling’s graduation.
“I really expected Bryan to take this role this year,” Baumgartner said.
The wins improved Hayden to 5-3 this season and 2-0 in league play. Up next for the Tigers is an 8:30 p.m. game Tuesday against Soroco in Hayden.
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