Kent Denver beats AHS boys in finals of Clay Belk tourney |

Kent Denver beats AHS boys in finals of Clay Belk tourney

In what head coach Steve Ketchum called his team’s “first big test,” the Aspen High School boys basketball team dropped a 56-42 decision to a big, talented Kent Denver team in the finals of the boys bracket of the Clay Belk Memorial Tournament at Basalt High School Saturday night.

“Kent played extremely well,” said Ketchum. “They’re well-coached and they outplayed us. You gotta give them all the credit.”

Mark Pettyjohn led the way for Kent Denver with 17 points in a game in which the Sun Devils never trailed. Bryce James had 12, and Adam Strecker chipped in with 11. Leading scorers For the Skiers, sophomore standout Jeff Brence was tops on the team with 11 points. Robert Tomaszek scored nine, and freshman point guard Nick Farrell had eight.

Utilizing an airtight defense that afforded the Skiers few open looks at the basket, the Sun Devils held Aspen to just six points in the first quarter and then cemented the win by allowing only three points in the third quarter.

“They played outstanding defense and shot well,” said Ketchum. “We didn’t play real good defense and didn’t shoot well.”

Kent opened the game with a 7-0 run and cruised to a 19-6 advantage after one quarter. The Skiers held their ground in the second frame, making the halftime score 33-20, but then the Sun Devils tightened the defensive screws and opened up a 44-23 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Aspen opened the fourth period with a 7-0 run of its own to cut Kent’s lead to 14, and down the stretch Aspen would get within 12 points, but the Skiers never seriously threatened the Sun Devils in the second half. Semifinal victory In the Skiers’ semifinal game, an 81-62 win over Ridgway, Aspen jumped out to a 27-14 lead before Tomaszek caught fire.

The 6-foot-8 exchange student from Germany scored 18 points in four and a half minutes on his way to 29 for the game, pushing the Skiers’ edge to 49-29 at halftime. Farrell had 17 points and 12 assists, and Brence scored 19 points.

For his effort in the semis and his showing in the finals, Tomaszek was the lone Skier named to the all-tournament team, joining Ridgway’s Cody Deutsch, Michael Palmer of Basalt and Kent’s Strecker and Pettyjohn. For the Skiers as a whole, it’s back to the old drawing board.

“It was a great learning experience for us,” said Ketchum. “Now we’ll take a look at the game film and try to get ready for next week.”

The Skiers next play Thursday, Dec. 16, when they host Grand Valley in an 8 p.m. game. Basalt boys take third In the consolation game of the boys bracket, Basalt put away a feisty Ridgway team by a score of 84-69. Palmer led the Longhorns with 27 points.

Jack Lutzeier had 20 and Drew Schiller scored 19.

Basalt very nearly pulled off an upset of Kent Denver in its semifinal game, leading the Sun Devils 36-32 at halftime before falling 74-56. Palmer once again paced the Longhorns scoring attack with 15 points.

Neil Broome had 10 points for Basalt, Brian Hunter scored eight and Schiller had seven. Pettyjohn was tops on the Sun Devils with 23 points in the contest.

Next up for the Longhorns of coach Bill Crowley will be a home game versus Glenwood Springs at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17.

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