Tigers aiming higher after lopsided win
Hayden — It wasn’t simply the fact they won Friday that had the Hayden High School girls team running off the court with wide grins, though victories of such epic proportion — it beat Caprock Academy 68-18 — have been rare in recent seasons for the Tigers, so racking one up was certainly worthy of a smile.
Hayden should have won Friday. Caprock came in 1-7 and routinely has been on the losing end of lopsided games. A 76-3 loss against Paonia earlier this month, for instance, accounted for only one of the team’s four single-digit offensive games this season.
The Tigers were hoping for more than a win, however. They’re hoping this can be a season that’s a step forward for their program. Taking that step certainly means winning in games such as Fridays, but it also means playing well in them, and Friday, Hayden left the court confident it had played well.
“This was good for them tonight,” coach Michelle Wilkie said. “They do look good winning. I love seeing that: the assists, the camaraderie and having fun.”
The Tigers had plenty of highlights Friday. Their defense was especially sharp in the first half, swooping in to grab errant passes and pushing relentlessly on fast break opportunities.
Hayden rebounded well, too, and let loose some ridiculously smooth passes, the best of which came on one of those fast breaks. Senior Darian Murphy brought the ball up behind a pack of Caprock and Hayden players, then whipped it ahead to classmate Grace Wilkie, who caught the ball as she was falling backwards underneath the basket.
Wilkie tossed it right back to Murphy who pulled up from 10 feet.
“Thats the kind of stuff they need to be able to do,” Michelle Wilkie said.
Kyra Bennett led all scorers with 16 points, going 6-for-6 from the free throw line. Murphy had 12, and Grace Wilkie added 10.
It all looked good Friday, but was it enough to beat a better team?
That’s where the “hope” comes in for the Tigers, now 3-8. They’re not aspiring to be league champs this season but, instead, to be better, solidly in the middle of the tough Western Slope League.
They’ve played a few games this year that would indicate that’s possible, losing close games against upper-half league opponents such as Vail Christian and Rangely. They’ve also played a few that would indicate otherwise, like a 66-39 loss Thursday against Meeker.
“We had a rough night,” Michelle Wilkie said of Thursday.
Still, her team is deeper than it’s been in four or five years. Nine different players scored Friday, and that number wasn’t just inflated by fourth-quarter mop-up duty. All scored more than two points, and seven of those players scored in the first half.
The win means one thing for sure: Hayden won’t be at the bottom of the league.
It could have been a sign of more, however, and that was something to smile about.
“We need to get a few more league wins to put us in the middle instead of at the bottom, but I have faith in these kids,” Michelle Wilkie said. “I really think they can come together, that they can put it all together. We can do some really good things.”
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The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a winter storm warning for much of the West Slope ahead of a major weather system expected in the area starting Thursday.