Soroco slips by Hayden |

Soroco slips by Hayden

— The math added up to a great game Friday night between the Hayden and Soroco girls basketball teams.

Roll the tears of Hayden’s senior night in with Soroco’s desire to put the finishing touches on its best regular season in nearly 20 years; multiply that by the emotions of the county’s biggest high school sports rivalry, and it equaled a gripping game and a thrilling finish.

The upstart Tigers gave the reigning Rams everything they wanted, but it wasn’t quite enough as Soroco held on, 53-49.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Hayden senior Kara Cozzens said, “but we played well as a team and I’m proud of it.”

Cozzens, putting on the performance of her career, was a wrecking ball in the lane who threatened to give the league champion Rams a shocking upset.

She finished with 18 points to lead all scorers, super-charging her team early by scoring all eight of its first-quarter points, then lifting it late to keep it in contention.

She also had 10 rebounds to tally the double-double.

“I wanted to go out with a bang,” she said. “If it wasn’t for my guards, I wouldn’t have had as many points.”

Hayden senior Taylor Hagar brought everything she had, as well, scoring 11 points and hauling in 15 rebounds. Grace Wilkie had 13 for Hayden.

Midway through the fourth, the Tigers seemed poised to pull that upset. Cozzens put back offensive rebounds on back-to-back possessions to pull her team within one, 47-46.

“It’s her heart,” Soroco senior Jessica Rossi said, diagnosing Cozzens’ performance. “She played with a lot of heart. Basketball is only temporary, but that’s going to take her far.”

Rossi, who finished with 17, drained a 3-point shot to scuttle the comeback, putting her team up four and allowing the cushion necessary to finish the game.

Madison George scored nine for Soroco, and Briana Peterson and Hayley Johnson each added eight. Freshman Charlee Veilleux scored six big points, as well.

“They’re mentally tough,” Cozzens said of Soroco. “They were more mentally tough than we were.”

The game wrapped up the league portion of Soroco’s schedules, though it has one regular season game left, Thursday at home against Rangely. Hayden plays today at De Beque.

Soroco will play Paonia Feb. 27 at Cedaredge in the district tournament. Win or lose, the Rams will advance to the following weekend’s regional tournament in Grand Junction.

Hayden, too, can make it to Grand Junction, but it must win twice. The No. 4 team in the league, it will play at Meeker Feb. 24 and, with a win, Feb. 26 for the chance to play at the regional.

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