AHS ready for battle | AspenTimes.com

AHS ready for battle

Ben Husband

The battle begins tonight for the Aspen High School boys’ basketball team.

It will continue Saturday.

The Skiers’ hopes of grabbing one of the top four seeds for the Class 3A District Tournament depend on how they match up to two of their toughest opponents.

Tonight, Aspen travels to Carbondale to face the Rams at Roaring Fork High School.

Saturday, the Skiers travel to the Big House in Basalt to take on the Longhorns – a team Aspen hasn’t defeated in almost four years.

Both Aspen and Roaring Fork are tied for second place in the Western Slope Conference standings at 8-1. The Longhorns are fourth behind Olathe (7-2) at 6-3.

The top four finishers in the league standings will host the first round of Districts beginning Feb. 18

The bottom eight teams will face each other in “pigtail” games on Tuesday, with the higher seed hosting.

The winners of those games will then advance to face the top four seeds in Thursday’s opening round of the District Tournament.

One win this weekend would all but assure AHS a position among the top four seeds for the District Tournament. And two wins would guarantee a home playoff game.

Two losses could jeopardize their hopes for a top-four position and could drop them into a Tuesday (Feb. 16) pigtail game.

The Skiers enter this weekend’s final league games against the Rams and Longhorns “in control of our own destiny,” AHS coach Steve Ketchum said.

“We are excited to play,” Ketchum said. “The time has arrived for this team to go to battle.”

Ketchum added,”It’s going to be interesting to see what happens.

“Both games are huge for us and mean a lot,” he continued. “If we play the kind of basketball I know we can play, then we are capable of doing well against quality teams – we’ll find out this weekend.”

Last year, the Skiers dropped their final two games to Roaring Fork and Basalt and were forced to play the dreaded pigtail. They defeated Hotchkiss in that game, but then fell to Basalt for the fourth time in three years to end their season.

This year, there’s a lot more at stake for the Skiers.

“We have so much more motivation to do better because of where we could end up,” AHS senior captain Lucas Farrell said.

Farrell added that “we are in control of our fate.”

One thing the Skiers will have to overcome is the loud Roaring Fork crowd.

“We just have to stay focused on the game,” Farrell said. “And actually, we could and will use the crowd as more motivation to get pumped up.”

“We have to mentally prepare for the environment we are about to face,” Ketchum said. “I don’t care how bad the crowd is, we are going there to play basketball on the court. Whatever happens beyond that, we can’t worry about, and if we do, then we aren’t focusing on what we are supposed to be doing.”

But the Skiers know that the crowd at the Big House will be just as loud Saturday, something that may have contributed to Basalt’s success in the past.

But according to Farrell, it goes beyond the crowd.

“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “It seems that every time we play them (Longhorns), we don’t play to our potential. The only way we can beat this team is if we play to our potential.”

“I’ve always walked out of that gym with a loss,” he added. “It would be nice this time to walk out with a win.”

Adding to the Skiers’ confidence is the fact that they may be playing their best basketball of the season.

Farrell and fellow senior guard Ryan Kerr have come on strong in the final stages of the regular season.

Senior point Guard Harris Mufson played his best games of the season last weekend, scoring an unusual 11 points against Battle Mountain.

Senior center Stefan Koenes is coming off a career-high 26 points against Meeker while senior center Andrew Smith continues his threat as a top scorer inside.

“The team is playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Ketchum said. “And now it’s time to get tough and play the type of basketball this team is capable of playing.”

“We just need to take this weekend one game at a time,” Farrell said. “We’re not looking past Roaring Fork, but we will need to be ready to play Basalt.

“This is our most important weekend – so we need to play smart.”

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