AHS Lady Skiers thankful for Meeker victory
The Aspen High School girls basketball team owes a great deal of gratitude to Meeker.
Thanks to the Cowboys, the Skiers will host the first round of the Class 3A District Tournament Thursday (6 p.m.).
After losing their final two games of the season last weekend to Roaring Fork and Basalt, the Skiers faced playing a pigtail game to advance to Districts as the fifth seed. The top four finishers in the Western Slope Conference standings receive a first-round bye to the tourney.
After one of its best seasons, including an undefeated league record at home, Aspen’s hopes of advancing as one of the top four seeds crumbled like a cookie after the back-to-back losses.
Aspen needed a miracle in order to clinch that fourth spot – and the Skiers got it.
Compliments of Meeker.
The Cowboys traveled to play Battle Mountain in their final game of the season last Saturday night.
Battle Mountain had already defeated both Meeker and Aspen earlier in the season and all the Huskies needed was one more win, and they would have clinched the fourth seed, knocking Aspen to the No. five seed.
But Meeker shocked the Huskies with a loss on their home floor, giving Aspen the fourth seed and dropping Battle Mountain to the sixth seed.
After hearing of the Meeker win, AHS coach Brent Waldron breathed a sigh of relief. “It helps us a great deal.
“It will give us a chance to rest some tired bodies,” he added. “And it will give us a chance to nurse injured players.” Waldron added, “The real big advantage is that we get to host – it’s not that we got a bye.”
The Skiers will now host either fifth-seeded Eagle Valley or No. 12 Cedaredge.
Tipoff is 6 p.m. Thursday at the Skierdome.
The winner will advance to Friday’s 3A District semifinal game at Central High School (3:30 p.m.).
The other top three seeds include league winners Rangely. The Panthers claimed the top spot and received an automatic berth to the Class 3A Regionals.
Basalt finished 9-1 to claim the second seed and will host either Gunnison (seventh seed) or Paonia (tenth seed) Thursday (6 p.m.) at the Big House.
Roaring Fork finished third and will host the winner of either Battle Mountain (sixth seed) or Olathe (No. 11 seed).
The 3A District championship game will be 4 p.m. Saturday, also at Central High School. The top three finishers from the District tourney will advance to the 3A Regionals, which begin the following week.
Last year, the Skiers shocked the regional scene by winning both the District and Regional titles as the No. 7 seed advancing to the 3A State Tournament in Colorado Springs. It was Aspen’s first trip to the state in girls basketball in 17 years.
“We need to draw from that experience last year,” Waldron said. “We need to relive the memories and the players who experienced that need to realize what it takes to win – taking it one game at a time.
“That’s how we did it last year,” Waldron added. Preparation The Skiers, according to Waldron, “must eliminate the mental errors if we’re going to make it to Districts.”
The Skiers were victims of the turnover bug last weekend throwing the ball away during key moments in both games.
“We’re playing hard and with a lot of emotion,” Waldron said. “But at times, we’re just not playing real smart – this is the time where we need to be smart.”
But maybe the biggest obstacle Aspen must overcome is its lack of shooting.
In the loss to Roaring Fork, Aspen scored just five buckets in three quarters, which was a result of not shooting.
“I don’t understand it,” said Waldron. “We had a great week of shooting in practice, but for some reason, we just weren’t shooting the ball when we needed to.
“I think one of the problems is that this is a very unselfish basketball team,” he continued. “But we need to overcome that and know when to shoot that ball.”
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.