ASPEN - The Aspen boys basketball team opened league play Tuesday with a stifling new look on defense.
The Skiers forced Grand Valley into turnovers for much of the night, but it wasn't until the second half that Aspen pulled away for a 43-22 win. Missed lay-ups, errant free throws and failed conversions on wide-open 3-pointers left the Skiers with just a 22-13 lead at the half.
"The first half, we got a bunch (of turnovers), and we didn't make lay-ups. We didn't convert. ... It was a lot of wasted effort it felt like," Aspen coach Steve Ketchum said of the revamped defensive trapping scheme.
The Skiers got the scores to go along with the steals in the second half, opening up with a 12-0 run led by junior Clayton Crawford, who scored nine of his game-high 23 points during the stretch.
Grand Valley ended the third quarter with a 6-0 spurt, however, to pull to within 13.
"We got into a funk and just stopped scoring and gave up a few baskets, and then all of a sudden, the game is no longer a blowout anymore," Ketchum said.
The Aspen defense won out, holding Grand Valley to just one point in the fourth.
"I loved the kids' effort tonight. ... People are going to miss shots. They're going to make mistakes, and you live with that," Ketchum said. "But what you can't live with is not a great effort. So that's what we emphasize, and I think we got a great effort tonight defensively."
Ketchum noted that sophomore Evan Patzoldt and junior Levi Wright were two players who stepped up, adding that Wright was mistake free until an errant pass on the final inbound of the game.
As for Patzoldt: "He struggled a little bit the first three games with decision making, running the show as our point guard and just figuring out to do the right thing, and I thought tonight he made great strides," Ketchum said. "His turnovers came way down."
With the win, the Skiers improved to 3-1. They'll next take the court at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 in Cedaredge.