ASPEN - While the outcome was inauspicious, Aspen High girls basketball coach Jeremy Haack was convinced that Tuesday's loss in Cedaredge was a learning experience.
"I told the girls we got better," Haack said of the 50-26 loss to the Bruins. "I told them that their energy was there and that we needed that same effort going forward."
His young Skiers delivered Friday against downvalley rival Basalt. Aspen was efficient on offense and stout on defense in the early going, amassing a modest lead in the opening half. It answered a furious Longhorns rally in the third with a dominant run, and then played keep away down the stretch to preserve a 32-27 victory - its first since Dec. 1 and second in six games this season.
"I'm really proud of them. Going into Christmas break with a win, that's really great for us," Haack said afterward. "They zoned us the entire game, and we did some different things offensively. Anna (Stevens) got us started with a quick two, and I thought we made better decisions tonight."
Stevens nailed a mid-range jumper on the opening possession of a first quarter in which both sides struggled mightily to generate any offensive continuity.
Maggie Ryan provided a spark in the paint in the latter stages of the quarter. The senior absorbed bumps and scored on consecutive possessions to help Aspen amass a 10-5 cushion.
She pulled down an offensive rebound and finished about midway through the second, stretching the home team's advantage to 10 and prompting a Basalt timeout. Ryan finished with 10 points.
The break in play buoyed the Longhorns; Mayda Ramirez hit a free throw, and then Lindsay Corzine scored twice. Basalt controlled the early stages of the third, pulling to within one.
"I think we just missed some gimmes," Haack said. "If those go in, the energy certainly was there."
The Skiers aggressively drove to the basket in the latter stages of the third, then converted five of eight free-throw attempts to take a 24-18 lead.
Aspen scored six of the final quarter's first seven points to effectively put this game out reach. Emily Daly led the way, scoring in transition and converting a three-point play and then chasing down a loose ball and finishing off the glass.
All nine of the junior's points came in the second half.
The Skiers were content to stall the rest of the way. Corzine helped keep her team close with four points in the final 90 seconds of regulation, but Basalt could pull no closer than five.
Corzine finished with a game-high 13 for the Longhorns, who dropped to 0-4.
"I thought the girls did a nice job at the end of executing the delay game. We were able to pull it out, take time off the clock and look for good shots," Haack said. "We're going to play some great teams (after the break), so getting this one was huge."