Routt County athlete of the year: Top coach

First-year Soroco High School boys basketball coach Shawn Hayes sounded a bit ambitious — if not far-fetched — when he decided to take over the Rams’ program and build the team basically from the ground up.

Before Soroco took one practice dribble last fall, Hayes already faced an uphill climb of replacing 70 percent of the team’s scoring lost to graduation last May.

Instead, Hayes inherited a group of hungry, but largely unproven, juniors, which included his son, Warren (the Soroco boys 2014-15 boys athlete of the year).

What ensued defied almost all odds thrown in the first-year coach’s direction. In past seasons, with rosters that looked like junior college squads in height, the Rams played somewhat below their potential.

With Hayes in charge in 2014-15, Soroco embodied a defense-first mentality to go along with some slicing, streaky offense.

The team started the winter with a 1-2 record, then got red hot at the right time.

Between Dec. 12 and Feb. 13, the Rams compiled a 12-3 record and came within a game of winning the 2A Western Slope League Gore Division title.

From the team’s 13-9 record to each player’s body language during the Rams’ remarkable turn-around season, it was clear Shawn Hayes breathed new life into the program, making him the 2014-15 Coach of the Year.

Perhaps the moment of the year in Hayes’ first coaching venture was a pair of back-to-back games to close out January. The Rams knocked off eventual divisional champion Vail Christian in the Saints’ gym, 72-66, then followed it up with a 59-53 victory over third-place West Grand a night later.

The Rams won their next three and at one point, stood at 13-5 overall. But the district and regional playoffs roughed Soroco up a bit. Still, the Hayes-led Rams will welcome back 83 percent of their scoring next winter.

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