Skiers double up rival Longhorns | AspenTimes.com

Skiers double up rival Longhorns

Jon Maletz

Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN Aspen’s Cory Parker sank an improbable fadeaway as time expired in the first half Tuesday. In the second, he and the Skiers sank rival Basalt.Aspen, which led by six at the break, stretched its lead to 18 after three quarters and, on the strength of Parker’s 28 points, cruised to a 62-31 win. The Skiers, eighth in the latest Rocky Mountain News state 3A poll, held a fifth straight opponent under 40 points.”These kids are being recognized by the state because of their defense,” said Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum, whose team improved to 9-3 overall and 6-1 in the Western Slope. “No other team in Colorado has held five straight teams to under 40. If everything’s clicking for us, there’s nobody in the state we can’t beat.”

The two teams traded baskets and the lead during a sloppy first quarter. Longhorns guard Duncan McDaniel’s acrobatic up-and-under basket at the buzzer gave Basalt a 13-11 lead. Aspen didn’t help its cause, missing seven layups.Parker scored eight of his team’s 15 points in the second quarter as the Skiers opened up a 26-20 halftime advantage.”At halftime we realized that no matter how good Basalt is, this game is always going to be tough,” Parker said. Aspen topped Basalt, 60-51, in the first meeting Dec. 15. “This was our rival, and it was in our own house. We not only wanted to win but win big.”Things fell apart quickly for Basalt in the opening minutes of the third quarter. Parker buried a long 3-pointer on the opening possession. Moments later, guard Tommy Rittenhouse forced a turnover and scored in transition. Michael Holmes drilled a three from the wing, and Basalt head coach Michael Green called a timeout with his team trailing 34-22.After the timeout, Parker drove to the basket and drew a foul; he sank one of two. Center Michael Taylor followed by finishing strong in the paint. Green called a second timeout, less than a minute and a half after the first.

“We didn’t come out and play as disciplined,” Green said. “That first possession we had, we could’ve gotten to within six or seven. Then they hit a three, we turn the ball over, and we’re down 12 and really fighting. We were right there in the first. We know we have the ability, we just have to be more consistent.”Aspen, which held Hotchkiss to eight points in the second quarter en route to a 59-31 win Jan. 20, picked up its intensity on defense to stifle any hopes of a Longhorns comeback. Basalt’s Rory Johnson opened the fourth quarter with a three – it was the team’s lone basket during the final eight minutes. Junior Brian Westerlind added 11 points for the Skiers, who have won five straight and host Cedaredge on Friday. The Longhorns next play Friday night at Hotchkiss.”We really got serious after being humiliated on our home floor [by Roaring Fork],” said Ketchum, whose team lost to the Rams, 64-32, on Dec. 16. “After that game, we realized we weren’t nearly as good as we wanted to be. “If these kids want it bad enough, they can get it done.”

Basalt 56, Aspen 25For nearly four and half minutes Tuesday, Aspen executed its game plan for rival Basalt to near-perfection. The Skiers, cognizant of the Longhorns’ affinity for uptempo play, spread the floor and played a delay offense.When Basalt coach Carolyn Compton called a timeout with 4 minutes, 23 seconds left in the first, the Skiers were clinging to a 2-1 advantage. The lead – Aspen’s only one of the game – proved short-lived. The Longhorns (9-3, 6-1) used a trapping defense to force multiple Aspen turnovers, capitalized in transition and ran away to the 56-25 win. “Our whole goal was to limit their possessions,” said Aspen head coach Jeremy Haack, whose team dropped its first two meetings with Basalt by a combined score of 131-79. “We tried to slow them down, but they’re a good team. They gave us a lot of pressure.”Basalt, frustrated by Aspen’s early-game strategy, ramped up the pressure by extending its defense to near halfcourt. The Longhorns started jumping passing lanes and generating easy buckets in transition. They took an 11-1 lead after one quarter and led, 24-11 at the break.

It was a good mental challenge for us, the girls were really frustrated,” Basalt head coach Carolyn Compton said. “We gave them more pressure and make their decisions have to speed up.”Aspen would get no closer than 12 the rest of the way as it struggled to take care of the ball and find continuity on offense. Taylor Schlepp’s 3-pointer with less than 5 minutes remaining in the third was the first field goal by someone other than Julia Hassall, who fouled out with 4:24 remaining in the game.Basalt, which had been averaging 74 points per game in its previous three contests, have won seven of eight.”I think the girls learned a few things,” Compton said. “If this was our off night, I’m glad it came now.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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