PALISADE, Colo. - Trying to overcome the emotional baggage of an agonizing loss to Moffat County on Friday night, the Aspen High School boys basketball team faced upper valley rival Basalt on Saturday afternoon.
Third place in the Western Slope League District Tournament was at stake along with Class 3A regional playoff seedings.
A late surge by Aspen helped the Skiers to a 51-32 victory at Palisade High School.
Both Basalt and Aspen move on to the 3A Regionals next weekend with the top four teams from the district qualifying for the state playoffs.
Saturday's win over Basalt was a stern test, Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum said.
"We did not play well for the first two-and-a-half quarters," Ketchum said. "It was a very close game."
Outside shooting helped the Longhorns, he said.
"Sean Ryan kept Basalt in the game. He was really hot," Ketchum said after the senior point guard hit five 3-pointers to lead the Longhorns with 15 points.
"We struggled from the layup line and the free throw line," Ketchum said, citing the thorns that hurt No. 2 Aspen in Friday's loss to No. 3 seed Moffat County.
"Then, with 4 minutes to go in the third quarter, we went on a 26-8 run for the win," Ketchum said.
Junior Trent Lichtenwalter led all scorers with 22 points.
His defense, Ketchum said, was more impressive.
"Trent played great. He was all over the place getting steals. He was in the passing lanes, giving defensive help," said Ketchum, who also praised the play of sophomore Dominick Alcorta.
Taylor Henschke, also off the bench, added eight points as Aspen's second-leading scorer.
"He had been struggling, but he really helped us a great deal (Saturday)," Ketchum said.
The Skiers (18-4) and the Longhorns (8-14) await their fate in the Class 3A Regional seedings Sunday.
There will be eight 3A regional sites with four teams to play at each site. The top eight seeds will host the two-day tournaments.
"We'll be traveling somewhere," Ketchum said.
The Basalt boys will travel, as well, to next weekend's regional playoffs.