ASPEN - The Aspen girls basketball team could not stay in front of West Grand standout Kaitlyn Adams on Saturday.
Consequently, the Skiers were left battling from behind all afternoon.
Adams controlled the paint in the opening quarter, scoring 10 points and staking the Mustangs to a 21-6 lead. Aspen mounted a furious rally in the second half and pulled to as close as seven in the early stages of the fourth, but Adams came up big once more down the stretch, helping 2A West Grand pull away for a 55-38 win.
"That first half, that was the game right there," said Skiers head coach Jeremy Haack, whose squad dropped to 1-3. "I wish I knew why we started like we did."
West Grand's strategy to exploit its size in the paint was on display in the first. The Mustangs controlled the opening tip, pushed the ball up court and fed Adams in the post. The senior backed down her defender, absorbed a bump, scored and then finished off the three-point play. Soon after, she scored off the glass on an athletic drive through the lane.
Teammate Sarah Vance then nailed a jumper, prompting Haack to call a timeout with 5 minutes, 33 seconds remaining in the quarter and his team already trailing by six.
Vance and Adams continued to fluster the Aspen defense, combining for 17 points in the opening frame, and Sky LePage pulled down an offensive board and scored at the buzzer to extend the West Grand advantage to 15.
The Skiers' offensive struggles continued in a second quarter in which they scored four points - and none after the 5:01 mark. They trailed 34-10 at the break.
Aspen showed signs of life in the third. Anna Stevens opened with a jumper, then Sadie Alpern nailed a 3 to spark a 13-2 run. Stevens closed out the quarter with a steal and lay-up in transition and a 3-pointer from the top of the key, pulling the Skiers to within 10 at 40-30.
They outscored the Mustangs, 20-6, in the third.
"I think we learned that we can shoot the 3 well and can create offense off of our defense," Haack said. "That's definitely something to build on."
Aspen could not keep the momentum going. It momentarily pulled to within seven after a basket from Alpern and a free throw from Maggie Ryan, but Adams and West Grand answered right back, scoring 13 of the game's next 15 points to put this one out of reach.
Adams finished with 20 points, and Vance finished with 13 for the Mustangs, who improved to 3-2.
Stevens finished with 15 for the Skiers, who visit Cedaredge on Tuesday and host Basalt on Friday in their final game before winter break.