PARACHUTE, Colo. - Aspen High School's boys basketball team had little trouble with Grand Valley in the team's initial meeting in December. On Tuesday, it was all the Skiers could do to hold off the pesky Cardinals at the Nest.
Clayton Crawford scored a game-high 38 points on 13-of-23 shooting, including six of Aspen's eight overtime points in the Skiers' 68-63 Class 3A Western Slope League victory.
"I love Clayton Crawford," longtime Aspen coach Steve Ketchum said. "He is a great leader, has an incredible work ethic, tremendous to be around. And he goes for almost 40? Almost 40? Player of the year in tonight's game."
No doubt, Aspen (9-3 overall, 7-2 in league play) was dominant in its 43-22 victory over Grand Valley in the Skier Dome on Dec. 11. But thanks to the addition of some key players for the Cardinals (1-12, 1-9) in Sam Parker and Trent Hagerty, Tuesday's game went down to the wire.
The Skiers ended up closing it out thanks to Crawford, whose 11 fourth-quarter points helped rally Aspen from a 48-39 deficit at the start of the stanza.
"Obviously, we didn't want to let that happen," Crawford said. "But we're a hard-fighting team and just had to put our heads down and keep going to work.
"We just had to buckle down on defense because we knew we could get points from that. It was all we could do to hold them to less points."
Trent Reidle finished with 19 points and four 3-pointers, and Parker added 18 and three 3s to go with three treys from Hagerty for the Cardinals, who have lost three in a row since their first win of the season Jan. 15 against Coal Ridge. But unlike the start of the season, when six of their losses came by double figures, Grand Valley's previous two losses against Gunnison and Moffat County were by a combined seven points.
"We're right there," Grand Valley coach Scott Parker said. "I'm proud of my kids. We just have to learn how to win. We did darn near enough tonight. It's a great group of kids, and we're playing hard. We've just got to get over the hump, and we're getting close."
The Cardinals reeled off a 9-0 run at the end of the third quarter to head into the fourth up nine points. But Trent Lichtenwalter, who scored 12 points for the Skiers, opened the quarter with a layup that sparked a 7-0 run to bring Aspen within 48-46.
The Skiers tied it with 3:23 left in regulation when Crawford hit a pair of technical-foul free throws. Then with 1:11 on the clock, Lichtenwalter hit a jumper to snap a 56-all tie, and Levi Wright's foul shots with 30 seconds left made it a two-possession game at 60-56.
Reidle responded with a layup on the other end, and after Wright missed a pair of double-bonus foul shots with 16 seconds left, Wyatt Hurst's layup with 3.5 seconds on the clock sent the game into overtime tied at 60.
Crawford took control from there. His layup with 1:01 left in OT gave Aspen the lead for good at 64-63, and after Evan Patzoldt blocked a running shot attempt from Parker, Crawford was fouled and hit two more foul shots.
The Cardinals had one more chance to tie it, down 66-63, but a pass from Parker was intercepted by Wright, and Patzoldt's two free throws with 5.7 seconds left sealed it.
Tyler Scott added 10 points for the Cardinals, who outscored Aspen 23-10 in the third quarter thanks in part to an 8-of-10 shooting performance from the field. The Skiers finished 25 for 56 shooting from the field.
The members of Grand Valley's girls basketball team took a Forrest Gump approach to its game against the Aspen Skiers. They just kept running.
Lauren Paskett and Haley Johnson each scored a game-high 16 points to lead four Grand Valley players in double figures, helping the Cardinals win, 75-26.
"I just think our focus really wasn't there on Saturday," Paskett said in reference to Grand Valley's 57-37 loss last weekend. "Today we really brought it back together and really wanted this win."
Johnson added five 3-pointers for Grand Valley (9-4 overall, 7-3 league), which kept its running game going even after the junior varsity players had emptied onto the floor by the beginning of the fourth quarter. Kyra Chenoweth added 14 and Ashley Radel chipped in 12 for the Cardinals.
Anna Stevens scored 11 points to pace Aspen (2-10, 1-8), which kept fighting even with the outcome decided. Players were diving for loose balls and scrapping for turnovers well into the second half, even when the Cardinals led 59-19 after three quarters.
"I thought we at times handled their pressure," Aspen coach Jeremy Haack said. "Grand Valley's not an easy team to play against, but in different spots, you look for different areas of improvement and you want to be better at the end of the game. I still feel good about my team."