New look Aspen girls hoops team aims high this season
The Aspen High School girls basketball team posted a 23-2 record last winter, collecting the Class 3A Western Slope League and state tournament runner-up titles along the way.
And despite losing four starters, the team also collected the No. 5 ranking in its class statewide going into tonight’s opening game at Paonia at 8 p.m.
“We lost some players but we’ve got our all-conference point guard back in Ellen Falender,” second-year coach Lance Finkbeiner said.
Falender, a senior, led the entire state of Colorado in assists last season and finished second in steals.
“She’s our point guard, so if we needed to have one player back for sure, it’s her,” Finkbeiner continued.
The team also returns several varsity letter winners, and several standouts from a junior varsity team that earned a 12-4 record last season.
“Even though a lot of these girls didn’t get a lot of playing time, they went to the state tournament and saw what that was all about,” the coach said.
Aspen opens at home Tuesday night at 7 p.m. against Battle Mountain, though Finkbeiner equated the first month of the team’s schedule to preseason.
“Up until New Year’s, we’re playing non-league games,” he explained. “And those games will give us an idea of where we’re at in the league – because it’s still early to tell who the favorites are.”
“Our expectations are very high,” he continued. “We have a different team but I’m extremely pleased with the talent we have and there’s no doubt in my mind that we can get back to the state tournament.”
Senior Cory Reno and sophomore Lizzie Suiter will be key to the team’s success, Finkbeiner said.
“Cory got a lot of playing time last year and she’s a great outside shooter,” Finkbeiner said. “Lizzie’s real athletic and we have high hopes for her. She’s only a sophomore and she’ll get better and better as the year progresses.”
“We know we have [the No. 5] ranking because of last year,” Finkbeiner said. “We still need to go out and prove it this year and I think teams will be out to get us. … But our girls are very modest and humble; they don’t think we’re hot stuff. They know we have a lot of work to do.”
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