Area hardwood action getting hot |

Area hardwood action getting hot

Ben Husband

The race for the Western Slope Conference boys’ and girls’ basketball titles are about to get very hot.

With two weeks left in the regular season, the top four teams in each of the boys’ and girls’ divisions are separated by just one loss.

In the boys’ race, the Olathe Pirates, who shocked Roaring Fork last Saturday with a 14-point win, are in sole possession of first place in the standings with a 7-1 in league record.

Olathe’s only league loss came to Aspen earlier this year.

Following the Pirates are Roaring Fork, Aspen and Eagle Valley, who all sit at 6-1.

Aspen’s lone loss in league play came to Eagle Valley three weeks ago while the Devils were stunned by Rangely a week earlier.

Two-time defending WSC and District champion Basalt also is figured into the scheme of things at 5-2.

The Longhorns suffered losses to both Olathe and Eagle Valley earlier this year.

But the Longhorns, coached by former BHS all-stater Bill Crowley, have a veteran lineup that is known for finishing league play in dominating style.

Rangely (4-3), Gunnison (3-5), Meeker (2-5), Cedaredge (2-6), Battle Mountain (1-5), Hotchkiss (1-6) and Paonia (0-7) round out the rest of the league standings.

In the girls’ division, the action is just as exciting.

Both Rangely and Basalt rest atop the league standings with perfect 7-0 league records.

The Longhorns began the season 1-4 before league play, but have since put together a winning streak.

Rangely is ranked third in the Class 3A statewide polls.

Close behind Rangely and Basalt are Aspen and Roaring Fork, both at 6-1.

Both Aspen and Roaring Fork lost to Rangely earlier this year.

Rounding out the rest of the girls standings are: Eagle Valley (4-3), Battle Mountain (3-3), Gunnison (3-5), Paonia, Hotchkiss and Meeker (all 2-5), Olathe (1-7) and Cedaredge (0-8). Boys action Beginning this weekend, the race for the league title could get even tighter.

Olathe played its last two games without all-conference center Jesse Ruland, including the league win at Roaring Fork and a nonconference loss to Rifle on Tuesday night.

The Pirates will travel to Gypsum for a big-league matchup with Eagle Valley tonight.

The Devils will welcome back senior 6-foot-7 inch center Jim Bair, 3A’s fifth leading scorer at 21 points a game, after he suffered a sprained ankle against Meeker last week.

Saturday night the Pirates are out of action, while Eagle Valley will travel to play Gunnison.

Roaring Fork will host Cedaredge Friday and then will travel to the Big House at Basalt Saturday to take on the Longhorns.

The Longhorns are led by seniors Forrest Woolery, Sean Koutsakis, John Stahlman and Rodney Crawford.

Woolery leads the Horns, who will travel to Rangely tonight, in scoring and rebounding.

The Rams, guided by second-year coach Mike Fahrenkrug, will bring a team deep in talent beginning with seniors Peter Gibson, Nathan Markham and B.J. Bair, Dustin Cheney, Brian Wells and Jesse Tena.

Also playing big for the Rams this year are juniors Kris Fahrenkrug and Chris Scott.

The boys game is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. or immediately following the girls varsity game in Basalt on Saturday.

Aspen, behind first-year coach Steve Ketchum, is off to its best start in school history.

The Skiers will travel to Battle Mountain Friday, then host Meeker Saturday at the Skierdome.

The Skiers’ key weekend of games comes in the final weekend of the regular season next week as they face both Roaring Fork and Basalt in the final two games of the season (Feb. 12-13).

Both games could be critical for all three teams involved.

Aspen hasn’t beaten Basalt in the last three years. The Skiers fell to Roaring Fork in last year’s finale in a thrilling one-point game. Girls action Tonight will be a showdown between the two undefeated teams in league play as Basalt travels to Rangely.

Debbie Cain’s Longhorns have ripped off seven consecutive wins behind the high-scoring trio of Kelli Corrigan, Heather Kappelli and Ambere Cunningham.

The Panthers’ top player is senior Nichole Sprunger, who is a threat from 3-point territory.

A win for either team will, for the moment, mean sole possession of first place in the girls’ league standings.

Saturday, the Panthers are at Hotchkiss, while the Longhorns host Roaring Fork.

The Rams bring in 6-2 sophomore scoring sensation Ren Udall.

Roaring Fork, coached by Larry Williams, also has all-conference senior guard Meagan Pluger and three-year starter Liz Cretti, also a senior.

Tip off for Saturday’s game is set for 4 p.m. at the Big House.

Aspen’s girls travel to Battle Mountain tonight and will host Meeker Saturday (4 p.m.) at the Skierdome.

The Skiers are led by seniors Whitney Gordon and Nicole Reno, junior guards Kelli Dangler and Jill Evans and sophomore point guard Ellen Falender.

Falender scored a career-high 25 points in a win over Cedaredge last Saturday.

As with the boys’ team, the Skiers’ key weekend is the final weekend when they travel to both Roaring Fork and Basalt to conclude the regular season.

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