Bragging rights, hoops championships on line for rivalry weekend in valley
For high school basketball teams in the Roaring Fork Valley, it’s rivalry weekend, with possible league championships adding to the intrigue.
Not only will games played between Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale’s Roaring Fork on Friday and Saturday establish valley bragging rights, it’s likely the contests will crown the boys and girls Class 3A Western Slope League Champions.
The Aspen High boys and girls teams, both undefeated to date in league play, travel to Roaring Fork Friday night, then to Basalt on Saturday. Should the Aspen teams sweep, it’s possible for both teams to finish out the regular season undefeated as league champions.
But the two downvalley schools are more than able spoilers. The Basalt High girls team is the only other undefeated team in the league, after last Friday’s win over Roaring Fork, the third-place team in league standings. That same night, the Basalt boys triumphed over Roaring Fork, to enter a three-way tie for second in the boys standings, behind Aspen.
On Friday, Basalt hosts Cedaredge for boys and girls games.
The Basalt girls, 7-0 in league, 15-1 overall, play the Cedaredge girls (2-5, 10-6) at 6:30 p.m. at the BHS gym.
The Basalt boys (5-2, 11-5) tip off with the Cedaredge boys (5-2, 12-4) later at 8 p.m. The game will break the three-way tie for second place in the league, presently shared by Basalt, Cedaredge and Eagle Valley.
Meanwhile, at Roaring Fork High School on Friday, the Rams host Aspen for a pair of games. The Aspen girls (6-0, 12-3) tip off with the Roaring Fork girls (6-1, 10-5) at 7 p.m. The Aspen boys (6-0, 11-4) play the Roaring Fork boys (4-3, 7-6) at 8:30 p.m.
On Saturday, Basalt hosts Aspen at the BHS Big House.
The girls tip off at 4 p.m., followed by the boys game at 5:30 p.m.
“This is rivalry weekend for us, absolutely,” said Lance Finkbeiner, the Aspen coach who led the team to the Class 3A finals last season, his first as head coach.
“We’re anxious for sure, but we’re confident,” he continued, “and we’re ready. It’s time to just go do it.”
When the Basalt girls met Aspen for their only league game last season, Basalt was undefeated. Aspen won the game, and their next meeting at the district tournament, and went on to finish as the Class 3A runner up. On Saturday (and if both teams win Friday), both Aspen and Basalt will enter the game with at least one loss, though they’re both unbeaten in league games.
“Being undefeated last year, it was exciting, but it takes a toll,” Basalt coach Debbie Cain said. “This year, our girls have that experience, and we know to take it one game at a time. They know what they need to get done.”
Aspen’s Finkbeiner and Basalt’s Cain are both looking forward to Saturday’s contest, which should fan the rivalry between the schools.
“There’s a bunch of good female athletes in Basalt and Aspen right now,” Cain said, “and they know each other pretty well.”
“We like Basalt,” Finkbeiner said, “but I don’t think they like us, especially since some of our kids live in Basalt and El Jebel, and a lot of them have competed together in different situations. Roaring Fork is more a friendly rivalry.”
The coach of the Aspen boys team, Steve Ketchum, says his team is pumped for the weekend.
“It’s been hard getting our kids to focus on Friday night (against Roaring Fork) because everyone wants to talk about Basalt,” he said. “We’re so close to Basalt and the kids all know each other, so they’re excited.”
As the only unbeaten team in league play, Aspen controls its own destiny in the league. And should the team win out its league schedule, it would be an AHS first, Ketchum said.
“This will be the toughest weekend of the year for us,” he said. “We’ll find out what we’re made of. If we’re fortunate enough to survive this weekend, we’ll probably have the league championship locked up. However, there are absolutely no guarantees and we know that.”
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