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Tigers’ season ends in defeat

Nick Foster

The Hayden girls basketball team finished its season Friday with a heartbreaking loss to the Grand Valley Cardinals, but the Tigers’ effort was a testament to their improvement through the season and showed promise for next season, Hayden coach Jayme Adams said.

The Tigers faced Grand Valley twice during the regular season, losing by 11 and 9 points, but Adams said last week they were confident about the rematch in Parachute.

On Friday, they hung with the Cardinals point for point and even led by three points at halftime. But as the clock wound down, the Cardinals were ahead, and the Tigers had to foul to stop the clock; the Cardinals sank all their foul shots, Adams said.

Grand Valley won, 50-45.

The Tigers took a blow in the first quarter when starting guard Millie Hellyer stole a ball and felt a Grand Valley player’s knee hit the side of her own knee. Hellyer went down and found out later the cartilage had been torn.

“That hurt us,” Adams said. “She has such an aggressive presence, defensively.”

Hellyer, the Tigers’ only senior, said she knew instantly that moment would be her last on the competitive basketball court.

“I was angry at first,” Hellyer said. “Then the real pain started. It was so hard to sit on the bench knowing I wasn’t going back in and that I probably wouldn’t play basketball with them again.”

With Hellyer on the bench, her Tiger teammates had to pick up the slack. Lauren Branstetter was a tremendous help, scoring 10 points. Adding to that were 14 points and nine rebounds from Alycia Boyd, seven points and nine rebounds by Jamie Waugh, and 11 points from Whitney Bell.

“Aly and Jamie played really tough underneath (the basket),” Adams said. “They did a great job defensively. (Grand Valley) played a good post game. Holly Steltzlen scored 13 points in the post, but we did a good job of covering her though.”

Hayden had a “mental meltdown” in the third quarter, Adams said. The Tigers began forcing shots and defensively allowed the Cardinals to score easy baskets. Grand Valley outscored Hayden 17-9 in the third.

While Hayden managed to stick with the Cardinals 12-12 in the fourth, it was not enough to overcome the third-quarter deficit, Adams said.

“They beat us on free throws, but we played a really tough game,” Adams said. “It kept going back and forth. It was fun.

“It’s hard to lose when you know you can beat the team. I was hoping to go to regionals, but that’s just something we will have to work on next year.”

The Tigers finish their season, including two playoff games, at 5-14 overall and 3-5 in leauge play.

Already, Adams is thinking of next year. The first-year coach, who is expecting a baby April 2, said she is thrilled by her team’s improvement and hearing other coaches’ praise. With seven juniors returning next year, she said, the Tigers will be a force to be reckoned with.

“We earned some respect in our league this year, for sure,” Adams said. “All the other coaches were talking about how far our girls have come. It was really encouraging.”

Hellyer, who played with a different coach each year in high school, said she also was happy to have Adams as a coach.

“Other coaches focused on plays all the time, but she knew that wasn’t all you need,” Hellyer said. “She made sure everybody had a well-rounded game, and that really helped us a lot. She showed us we can’t do everything, but we each have a purpose. She taught us to find our purpose and stick with it.”

“As a team, we had a rough start, but toward the end, everyone realized how to play together,” she added. “We learned how to watch each others’ back.”

Adams said she was excited about coaching Hayden well before the season started but was worried about bringing new methods to an established team. She was pleased when the team heeded her advice and lessons, she said.

“They just took off,” Adams said. “It was fun to watch them mature and come together at the right time and take off. As my first year coaching, it was so much fun. I am so excited for next year.”

— To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com


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