Time runs out on Tigers

Grand Valley escapes with 40-39 win in district game

— The Hayden boys basketball team had a list of things it had to accomplish if it hoped to upset Grand Valley in Friday's district tournament game.

"We had to limit their three-point attempts. We had to control the boards, and we had to take care of the basketball in the half-court set, which we didn't do," Tigers coach Shawn Baumgartner said. "Two out of three wasn't good enough."

But Friday's game -- the fourth between Hayden and Grand Valley this season -- was everything a postseason contest should be, as the Cardinals escaped with a 40-39 win.

"They were really prepared," Grand Valley coach Scott Kiburis said.

Friday's district game was a match-up between the No. 2 seed Cardinals and No. 3 seed Tigers, but the three previous games between the two teams this year -- all Grand Valley wins -- had not been close. The story was different Friday night.

"We were worried," Cardinals junior Luke Braby said. "Beating a team that you've already beaten that many times is tough to do."

The Tigers had three chances to take the lead in the final minute but came up empty. With 1.3 seconds left, senior Tyson Sweetser tried to find junior Bryan Richards near the top of the key, but Grand Valley junior Mitch Belden deflected the inbounds pass.

Richards ran down the loose ball and threw up a wild, off-balance shot that went in, but the referees immediately waved it off. All Baumgartner could do was smile.

"At that point, you are just so proud of the kids," he said.

Richards said the play was designed to go to him or senior Keenan Bruchez.

"I was slashing to the 3-point line," Richards said. "They all sagged down on Keenan."

The Cardinals led for most of Friday's game but never had more than a nine-point lead. Trailing 32-24 at the end of the third quarter, Hayden rallied in the fourth.

Bruchez scored seven of his eight points in the final eight minutes, including a timely 3-pointer -- Hayden's lone three-point basket -- with 3:27 remaining. The bucket pulled the Tigers to within three.

Richards got an easy two points on Hayden's next possession, and senior Tyson Letlow pushed the Tigers ahead, 39-38, with another offensive rebound with 1:20 left in the game.

"We got a lot of offensive rebounds that kept us in the game," Baumgartner said.

Grand Valley came down the floor looking to put the game away when senior Dylan Culver let go of a long three-point attempt with 1:05 on the clock. The rebound sailed off the rim, allowing the 6-foot-5 Braby to tip the ball back to Culver.

Culver took advantage of the second chance and drove straight to the hoop for the game-winning basket.

The Cardinals came into Friday's game averaging 10 three-point baskets a game. They had just five against the Tigers.

"We really focused this week on defending the three-point line," Richards said.

Hayden keyed in on junior Sam Mckinley and Culver, which opened up things for Braby. Braby led the Cardinals with 12 points. Mckinley and Culver each had 11.

"He's a good player," Kiburis said. "With our perimeter players, sometimes he doesn't get as many opportunities."

Richards led the Tigers with 16 points. Letlow scored 12. Junior Dave Gullett came off the bench and scored three points.

Hayden finishes 14-6 overall. Grand Valley advances to the district championship at 2:30 p.m. today at Soroco High School in Oak Creek.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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