Aspen girls end Basalt’s unbeaten streak
All weekend long, the Skierdome rocked, but it was the Aspen girls who rolled right into the top spot in the 3A Western Slope League standings.
Playing some of their best basketball of the season in front of boisterous home crowds during a weekend of intense rivalry action, the Skiers picked up two key wins over Roaring Fork and Basalt to improve to 14-1 overall (9-0 in league) and supplant the Longhorns as the No. 1 team in the WSL.
“That was huge,” said coach Lance Finkbeiner following the first-place showdown with Basalt. “This kind of wraps up the league title, assuming we can win one of our last two games.”
The Skiers put together a scintillating fourth quarter to pull away from the Roaring Fork Rams and earn a 47-40 win Friday night. Then, on Saturday afternoon, Aspen saddled Basalt with its first loss of the season, winning 58-40 in a rematch of the final of December’s Clay Belk Memorial Tournament, which the Horns won 56-45. That game was Aspen’s only loss of the season.
Aspen started slowly against the Rams, finally breaking a scoreless tie roughly three minutes into the game when Rebecca Anderson converted two free throws. The Skiers would go on to take a 13-5 lead after the first period.
Roaring Fork stormed back in the second quarter, outscoring Aspen 14-7 to trail by just one, 20-19, at halftime. The Rams then took a brief lead early in the third quarter when Claire Griffith hit two free throws to put Roaring Fork up 23-22. But the Skiers answered right back with two foul shots by Jill Evans and a layup off an offensive rebound by Anderson to retake the lead. When the buzzer sounded on the third quarter, Aspen still maintained the slimmest of advantages, 30-29.
The fourth quarter, however, would belong to Evans and the Skiers.
The senior forward scored 5 of her game-high 18 points in a decisive 7-0 run by Aspen to open the final frame and finished with 10 points in the period.
“That was a big fourth quarter,” said Finkbeiner. “We got more aggressive offensively after being timid in the second and third quarters.
“Even though I was scared to death, it was good to win a close game like that,” he added.
Marta Losonczy finished the game with 10 points for Aspen, Anderson had nine, Kelli Dangler scored eight, and Ellen Falender had two. Roaring Fork scorers The Rams were led by Emily Markham’s 12 points. Lindsay Plant scored eight, Ren Udall had seven, and Griffith finished with six.
Brimming with confidence following Friday’s win, the Skiers got off to a quick start in Saturday’s game with Basalt and opened up a 12-8 lead after one quarter.
Losonczy led the way in the frame, scoring eight straight points for Aspen.
The Skiers extended their lead in the second quarter on the strength of six points from Jennifer Snook to take a 28-18 edge into halftime.
Basalt would match Aspen with 11 points in the third period, but trailing by 10 as the fourth quarter started, the Longhorns were forced to start fouling. Free throws The Skiers responded by hitting 16 free throws in the period, including 10 by Falender, to pull away from the Longhorns and win by 18.
“I’m really proud of all the girls,” said Finkbeiner. “This was the biggest game of the year, and they really stepped up.”
Falender led all scorers with 18 points in the contest. Losonczy finished with 13, all in the first half, Snook scored 10 in one of her best performances of the season, and Dangler had eight.
Basalt was paced by Kate LaMaster and Ambere Cunningham, who scored 10 points each. Kelli Corrigan had nine, and Heather Kappeli and Stephanie Kemp each finished with four.
The game versus Basalt marked the final regular-season home contest for Aspen seniors Dangler, Losonczy, Anderson, Snook and Evans, who were honored in a ceremony prior to the game.
With the loss, the first of the year for Basalt, the Longhorns drop to 16-1 overall and fall a game off the pace in the WSL with a 9-1 league mark.
Basalt picked up a win on the road Friday night by routing Cedaredge 72-38. On the road Aspen will wrap up the regular season on the road next weekend with games at Olathe on Friday and Gunnison on Saturday.
Should the Skiers win either game, they will clinch the WSL crown and most likely host a district playoff game when the postseason starts on Feb. 22.
Basalt will try to get back on track before the playoffs when the Longhorns host Eagle Valley on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
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