Hayden basketball preview: Tiger boys boast tons of talented seniors | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden basketball preview: Tiger boys boast tons of talented seniors

Hayden High School senior Andrew Kleckler works his way around a defender during a 2020 home game against De Beque.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Routt County 2A basketball teams couldn’t start the season in a better way. On Friday, Hayden will face off at Soroco High School to kick off the season. The teams have had a little over a week of practice, and players have had to spend some time getting used to the protocols but are no less excited to start playing.

“We’re used to a little bit more before our first game, but we’re as ready to go as we will be,” Hayden boys head coach Mike Luppes said. “We’re looking forward to this weekend, especially starting off with Soroco. That’s probably our biggest rivalry game. The kids love it. I think both teams enjoy playing against each other.”

The Tiger boys team has many seniors this year, four of which were starters last year. Seniors Hunter Slowik and Liam Frentress will likely lead the team in scoring, while Andrew Kleckler, Keaton Knez and Ty Blackwell will provide plenty of assistance.

Hayden has a deep roster, which is necessary this year, as substitutions might be more frequent due to wearing masks during play.

“We’ll be playing a lot of people. I think because of the shortened preseason our conditioning isn’t quite where we want it to be yet,” Luppes said. “Then throw in the mask factor, you’re going to see a lot of teams playing a lot of rotations.”

In the 2019-20 season, the Hayden boys went 5-15. With so much experience coming back to the court this year, the Tigers have no reason not to be able to compete with every team in the league and earn a .500 record.

The deficit by which the Tigers lost games shrunk toward the end of last winter. They lost by 10 points or fewer to Caprock, Meeker and West Grand. Closing those gaps and turning a close loss to a win would be huge for Hayden.

Season opener

Friday, Jan. 29

Hayden at Soroco

Girls varsity 3:30 p.m.

Boys varsity 5 p.m.

Hayden girls start season without a head coach

Hayden sophomore Emma Seagraves aims for the hoop during a game against Soroco in early 2020.

After a week of practice with her team, Hayden girls basketball head coach Lori Raper had to self-isolate due to possible exposure to a positive case of COVID-19. If she has to remain quarantined for the full 14 days, she’ll miss five games with the Tigers.

Assistant coach Jeff Schlim and former assistant coach Shelly Barnes have been working with the Hayden girls while Raper is out of commission. Raper has been able to Zoom call her athletes and watch practices.

“They’re ready to go. They’re ready to play,” Raper said. “It just feels really odd that I’m sitting on the outside watching livestream basketball and not being in the gym.”

Before having to self-isolate, Raper and the Tiger girls got some time together at open gyms, but that mostly focused on fundamentals, since the entire team wasn’t there to run through plays.

Her returners and veterans will be great leaders, but Raper knows she can’t rely on them to carry the team.

Senior Gracie Day is back and more confident than ever after having a shaky return from injury last year. Day is one of three seniors on the team along with Lauren Kirby and Lee Anna Nelson. There’s also a strong junior pairing of Katerina Barnes and Alison Rajzer. Sophomores Tessa Booco and Emma Seagraves also saw tons of time on the varsity team last year.

“We’re not focusing on any negativity. We’re just going to play basketball and have fun and whatever happens, happens,” Raper said. “Hopefully, we make it to the end of the season without any catastrophic injury or tons of quarantine.”

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