Hoops: Valley ousts Aspen boys | AspenTimes.com

Hoops: Valley ousts Aspen boys

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ERIC BELLAMY/ebellamy@greeleytribune.com

GILCREST, Colo. – Aspen’s bid for a fourth-consecutive trip to the Great Eight came up a few baskets short.

The 14th-seeded Skiers boys battled back from a 14-point halftime deficit in Saturday’s 3A state tournament battle against No. 3 Valley in Gilcrest, pulling to as close as six in the fourth quarter. The Vikings, champions of the Patriot League, stood tall down the stretch, however, pulling out a 63-56 win.

“You always want to win, but I’m not disappointed in terms of the season,” Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum said. “I’m proud of these guys. They overachieved every step of the way. Even today, it felt to me like we lost to a team that very well might win the state championship. And we were just six points away.

“The better team won. But I’ll tell you what, we fought hard and made it a hell of a game.”

The Skiers did not appear to suffer any residual effects from Friday’s playoff opener, in which they escaped with a win against The Academy despite scoring 32 points. They converted on their first three possessions Saturday, prompting an early Valley timeout.

The Vikings (20-4) regrouped, jumping out to a sizable advantage in large part because of adept 3-point shooting.

They led, 35-21, at halftime.

“Their talent and super-high skill level took over,” Ketchum said. “They started raining 3s on us and were hitting almost every shot they took.”

Still, Aspen did not fade. Bridger Dawson scored nine of his team-high 21 points in a third quarter in which the Skiers pulled to within 10.

With Valley leading by seven with

four minutes remaining in the game, a questionable call quelled Aspen’s momentum. Not long after Valley’s Steve Weigandt took and made a 3-pointer in the corner, Skiers junior Jake Nugent was whistled for a foul in the paint; the Vikings were awarded the points and possession.

“The other coach was just chuckling – he couldn’t believe they were giving his team the ball,” Ketchum said. “That’s down the stretch while we’re making a run at getting back in the game. Obviously, it might’ve changed something. I never [complain] about the refs … but that happened several times today.”

Aspen could not recover.

Mike Schwartz scored 11 points and Nugent added 10 and pulled down seven rebounds for the Skiers, who turned the ball over 13 times.

Joe Dallenbach finished with 21 and Tanner Schmidt pitched in with 16 points for the Vikings, who were a perfect 13-for-13 from the free-throw line.

“I thought that we played with a lot of heart,” Ketchum said. “We got all the way to the Sweet 16 and had a shot at one of the best. We almost pulled it off.

“I don’t think there was a lot of shedding of tears in the locker room. I think they’re proud of what they accomplished.”