Aspen boys advance to 3A Regionals |

Aspen boys advance to 3A Regionals

Ben Husband

GRAND JUNCTION – Before suffering its fourth consecutive loss of the year to valley rival Basalt, the Aspen High School boys’ basketball team celebrated its biggest win of the year.

With a 56-38 win over Olathe in Friday’s semifinal game of the Class 3A District Tournament at Central High School, the Skiers guaranteed themselves a spot at Regionals as they moved one step closer to their dream – the State Tournament.

“This team’s dream is to get to the State Tournament,” said AHS first-year coach Steve Ketchum. “And this is just a kind of a taste of what state will be like.”

With the win over the Pirates, the Skiers advanced to Saturday’s District championship game along with valley rival Basalt, which upset Eagle Valley 61-48 Friday.

In the title game, the Longhorns defeated Aspen 52-34, denying the Skiers a chance to host a Regional game.

Instead, the Skiers will travel to Del Norte this weekend for the 3A Regionals. The Skiers, 16-6, were seeded No. 11 for the 16-team Regionals. Del Norte, the No. 6 seed, is 16-5.

If the Skiers win, they will advance to the Class 3A High School Basketball State Championships beginning March 4 at Clune Arena in the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. If they lose, their season will come to an end.

After the win, Aspen seniors Lucas Farrell and Ryan Kerr were ecstatic to finally make it past Districts.

“This is great,” said Farrell, who finished with 11 points. “We’re finally going to Regionals – I can’t believe it.

“All I know is that we have been working our butts off all season long,” he continued. “And we finally did something – we’ve made it past Districts.”

But, as Farrell said, “the feeling’s really not there yet – we want to win Regionals and go to state.”

The last time the Skiers advanced to Regionals was the 1991-92 season.

“It was weird winning last week (Thursday’s first-round District game),” said Kerr, who added six points in the win. “We’ve never made it past that point, but now we’re going to Regionals.

“Four years and we haven’t come close to coming this far,” Kerr added. “This feels so good and we are so excited.”

The Skiers, who finished second in the Western Slope Conference in the regular season, got 21 points from senior center Stefan Koenes.

Koenes battered Olathe’s inside defenders with power and finesse. The Pirates were playing without all-conference center Jesse Ruland, who suffered torn ligaments in his knee in the regular-season finale.

Aspen junior Corey Robinson had his best performance of the season as he scored 11 points, including two 3-pointers.

Aspen did this without senior center Andrew Smith, who suffered a severely sprained ankle in the season finale against Basalt.

“To come out here and win without basically our most valuable player and to make it to Regionals without him is just unbelievable,” said senior point guard Harris Mufson.

“It feels so good,” Mufson added. “We are one step closer to our seasonlong goal and that’s to go to state.”

In the locker room after the game, Ketchum delivered an inspirational speech to the team.

“Your dream is coming true,” he said. “Your dream all season long was to go to state, and you just took the first step.

“I’m so proud of you guys,” he continued. “Let’s get ready for Regionals and let’s get ready for the state tournament.”

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