AHS boys basketball beats Summit in final home game, continues to defy own youth
Yes, the Aspen High School boys basketball team is young this season. It’s easy for opponents to grab the roster and see one devoid of a single senior.
But AHS head coach Cory Parker isn’t trying to hide that fact from opponents. He’s trying to hide it from his own players.
“We’ve tried our best to avoid identifying how much younger they are than our competitors,” Parker said. “We’ve had to hold them to a different expectation and not use that as one of their crutches throughout the season. We need to look at that as such a wonderful opportunity.”
Of the 10 players listed on the varsity roster ahead of Tuesday’s home game with Summit, two were juniors, seven were sophomores and one was a freshman. It’s a far cry from the class of 10 seniors who last season led the Skiers to a perfect 27-0 mark and the Class 3A state championship, a first for the proud program.
That was Parker’s first season as the team’s head coach after taking over for Alex Schrempf, who he had been an assistant under as they rebuilt the program. Here in Year 2 for Parker in command, he’s had to mold a much rawer roster than the experienced one he was handed a year ago.
“We are going to find stuff about who we are and develop our identity every single game. Regardless of how we are playing — obviously consistency is one of the biggest things we are focusing on and putting four quarters together — but they have come a long way,” Parker said. “They showed a few glimpses, like the first few minutes of the game, they showed some glimpses of what we can do and where we have been and how much we have gotten better. But tonight they just got too comfortable. Got way too comfortable and content with everything.”
Aspen held on for a 60-54 win over Summit on Tuesday night in its home finale. The Skiers led 30-20 at halftime and likely could have pulled away had simple mistakes not let the Tigers hang around. AHS led 41-36 after three quarters and Summit was within a basket on a few occasions late, but the young Skiers found a way to keep them at bay just long enough to get the win.
Summit dropped to 4-14 overall and 2-7 in the Class 4A Western Slope League. AHS also won 69-60 at Summit on Jan. 14.
“We are doing well. We knew going into it they could compete to be one of the top teams in the conference,” Parker said. “We knew that. It was just a matter of us changing what our identity was from last year and having us create a whole new team and a whole new system of who we are and what we want to do and how we are going to score the ball. All of that is brand new.”
For the most part, Aspen has been able to overcome its youth. The Skiers are now 12-6 overall and 6-4 in league play. AHS moved up to 4A this season after a 6A classification was added this winter, causing a substantial reorganization of leagues across the state.
Steamboat Springs — who Aspen played to within a couple of baskets in a 57-52 road loss on Saturday — continues to pace the 4A WSL at 10-0, while Coal Ridge is clinging to second place, a game ahead of Aspen, Basalt and Delta.
While Tuesday’s win over Summit was the final home game for the Skiers, they still have five straight road games to finish out the regular season, starting Friday at Delta. They also make the trip to Basalt on Feb. 15 in their penultimate game.
With no league or district tournament this season, the Skiers state tournament fate will ultimately come down to RPI, with the top 32 making the 4A field. Aspen’s RPI ranking was No. 24 as of Tuesday night, while Basalt (10-9, 6-4) was No. 31.
“Finally, they are starting to protect this place a little bit better and it was nice to get the dub on our last home game. But we got a challenge on Friday. Delta is playing well,” Parker said. “We want to tell them it has nothing to do with how old they are out there. They are the most talented guys on the court nine times out of 10, so they got to play like it.”
Student musicians take the Wheeler stage for Aspen Rocks competition on Saturday
For the second year, Aspen Rocks will return to the Wheeler Opera House where six student musicians will compete on Saturday night for a chance to win recording time with a professional engineer at the legendary Mad Dog Ranch+Studios.