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District basketball tournament tips off tonight

Tim Mutrie

The first round of the Class 3A Western Slope League District basketball tournament opens tonight with eight boys and girls games around the region.

Winners of tonight’s contests advance to the district’s final four Friday and Saturday at Palisade High School in Grand Junction. At stake are two berths to the regional tournament, which begins March 3.

The Aspen High boys and the Basalt High girls, the Western Slope League champions, play host to Hotchkiss and Cedaredge, respectively. Aspen and Basalt already have regional berths locked up, because both won the league outright.

For the Aspen boys and Basalt girls, success in the district tourney will mean a higher seed in the regional tournament and the possibility of hosting a regional tournament game.

No. 1-seeded Aspen, the first team in school history to sweep its league schedule, finished the regular season last Saturday 10-0 in league, 15-4 overall.

The game against No. 8 seed Hotchkiss starts at 7:30 p.m. in the AHS Skier Dome. Hotchkiss (4-6, 7-10) won a tournament pigtail game 87-80 over No. 9 seed Rangely Tuesday night. (For a complete boys and girls tournament bracket, see page 25-A.)

“It’s going to be exciting for us,” said Aspen coach Steve Ketchum. “The big challenge for us will be securing a home game for regionals, and to do that, we’ll have to win all three district games.

“We think our toughest game might be the first against Hotchkiss,” Ketchum continued. “They’re hot. They won [Tuesday] with one kid scoring 37 points.”

The top-seeded Basalt High girls captured the school’s first league championship since 1992 last Friday, finishing their regular season 10-0 in league, 18-1 overall.

Basalt hosts No. 8 seed Cedaredge at 7 p.m. in the BHS Big House. Cedaredge, 3-7, 11-8, bested No. 9 seed Hotchkiss 63-58 in a pigtail game Tuesday. When Basalt and Cedaredge met Feb. 8 during the regular season, Basalt prevailed 42-26.

“I always hate playing a team more than once,” Basalt coach Debbie Cain said. “They’ve got game film on us, and for Cedaredge, beating us would make their season. I’m expecting a real battle.

“If we don’t win [the tourney], we’ll probably get a lower seed for regionals, and that’ll make it difficult for us to get to states,” said Cain. “If we win the [district] tournament, we’ll automatically get a one through seven seed [in the 16-team regionals], and that comes with a home game.”

Cain said her Longhorn team is injury-free, “in the best health we’ve been in a couple years.

“The girls are definitely excited,” she said. “It has been a long, long wait for Thursday to get here.”

Also Thursday, the Aspen girls, Basalt boys, and Roaring Fork girls all have games. The Roaring Fork boys, however, are done for the season. Roaring Fork, the No. 7 seed in the district tourney, lost a pigtail game 47-42 to No. 10 seed Meeker Tuesday.

The Aspen girls, the No. 3 seed with a 8-2 league record, 14-5 overall, host sixth-seeded Olathe at 6 p.m. at the AHS gym. Olathe, 5-5, 9-7, beat No. 11 seed Meeker 70-46 on Tuesday to advance to tonight’s game.

The Basalt boys, the No. 5 seed, travel to No. 4 Gunnison tonight for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff. Basalt (5-5, 11-8) lost to Gunnison (6-4, 12-7) 55-50 on Jan. 13 in the teams’ previous meeting this season.

The Roaring Fork girls, the No. 2 seed with a 9-1 league record, 14-5 overall, host No. 7 seed Rangely tonight at 6 p.m. at Roaring Fork High School. Rangely (4-6, 6-13) edged No. 10 seed Paonia 38-35 in a pigtail game Tuesday.


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