Aspen boys basketball hauls down third place at tourney
The Aspen High School boys basketball team beat league rival Hotchkiss Saturday to claim third place at an eight-team tournament in Steamboat Springs.
In the consolation-round final Saturday – playing against a team the Aspen coach says will vie with Aspen for the 3A Western Slope League title – Aspen prevailed 68-56.
“I was not very optimistic about the game beforehand,” coach Steve Ketchum said yesterday. “They looked like they were 20 points better than us, not that I told the kids that. But every once in awhile the kids make a believer out of a coach and that’s what happened – they showed up to play and they played phenomenal defense.”
Junior swingman Jeff Brence and sophomore point guard Nick Farrell “absolutely dominated the game,” Ketchum said.
Farrell knocked down 27 points and “was like a general out there – absolutely in charge,” the coach said.
Brence added 20 points, while center Blake Beyea pulled down 10 boards and scored 6 points.
“Everybody else who came off the bench had two points,” Ketchum said. “It was just a great night; we eliminated the mental mistakes.”
Mental errors plagued the Skier team during Friday’s 47-42 loss to the larger, Class 4A Conifer.
“We ran into a buzz saw,” Ketchum said. “It was a defensive battle from start to finish, and unfortunately our offense didn’t click.”
Despite the team’s offensive woes, Aspen led Conifer by 6 with four minutes left, Ketchum said, before “mental mistakes allowed the other team to come back.”
Brence led Aspen in scoring against Conifer with 24 points, followed by Farrell with 13 points.
On Thursday, in Aspen’s opening game of the tournament, the team took a 23-7 lead over Uintah, Utah, in the first quarter and cruised to a 93-41 victory.
Six Aspen players scored in double figures, led by forward Jared Kidd with 20 points. Sophomore Zac Paris came off the bench and drained five 3-pointers to earn the nickname “designated zone buster” from Ketchum. Beyea knocked down 12 points and grabbed as many boards.
“It was a positive weekend for us,” Ketchum said, “but what’s amazing is that if we played as well as we could have, we would have won the championship” claimed by host Steamboat Springs.
Following the weekend, Aspen improved its record to 4-2.
On Tuesday, Aspen travels to Grand Valley to play its last game before holiday break.
“It was a positive weekend for us, but what’s amazing is that if we played as well as we could have, we would have won the championship.” – Steve Ketchum, Aspen coach
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