Aspen High boys basketball captains Clayton Crawford and Trent Lichtenwalter were in the gym Tuesday morning, honing their skills mere hours before leaving for a game in Cedaredge.
Such is the commitment and work ethic that head coach Steve Ketchum credits for his squad's fast start.
"If we had everybody in the program doing that, we'd be knocking out state championships left and right," the coach joked. "They're improving every day."
So are the Skiers. Their progress was on full display against the Bruins.
Crawford hit two big 3-pointers in the opening quarter as Aspen raced out to an early lead. It led by 15 at the break and cruised to a 61-46 victory - its fourth in five games.
"We played a very athletic, big Cedaredge team that just won the (1A) football state championship. We were outsized and overmatched physically," Ketchum said. "I thought the kids battled very well, though. I was very concerned about this game because we struggled here last year."
The Skiers trailed by 12 at halftime in last year's trip to Cedaredge. They rallied, however, outscoring the Bruins 29-7 in the third en route to a lopsided victory.
This time around, Aspen was on point from the outset. Crawford led the way, scoring eight points in the first eight minutes. The Skiers nailed four 3s in the quarter - two from Crawford and one each from Luke Rider and Jesse Beetham.
Still, they only led by four heading to the second.
"They did a pretty good job inside and kept it close early by bombing in some 3s on us," Ketchum said. "We did a good job on defense, but there were times when we didn't quite move our feet and they got to the rim, and we couldn't stop the penetration. We didn't box out well enough, but we did make some adjustments."
Those adjustments started in a second quarter in which Aspen steadily pulled away. It led, 40-25, at the break.
That advantage ballooned to 22 in the second half.
Crawford led all scorers with 21 points. Lichtenwalter pitched in with 12, and senior Daniel Schwartz finished with a career-high eight. Rider added seven, and Evan Patzoldt finished with five.
"Clayton had a great game, ... and he really dominated the boards. He was the tower of power," Ketchum said. "For us to play this well at their place, I'm very happy.
"These guys are working hard, and we're off to a good start."
The Skiers host downvalley rival Basalt at 7 p.m. Friday in their final game before winter break.