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No. 2 Aspen boys take The Academy to school

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesSkiers guard Andrew Papenfus gets off a shot as an Academy player defends in Friday's sub-region game at Aspen High School.
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ASPEN – Head coach Steve Ketchum called the second half “the ugliest I’ve seen in my life.” Players chided the entire team for playing down to its opponent’s level.

It was not quite the reaction one would expect following a 27-point win. Then again, the standards are high – and the stakes higher – this time of year.

Second-seeded Aspen jumped out to an 11-0 lead in Friday’s sub-region opener against No. 31 The Academy, and allowed just one field goal in the first 91⁄2 minutes. The Skiers led by 20 at halftime, more than enough of a cushion to help them overcome a sluggish second half en route to a 54-27 win.

Aspen took care of business, improving to 23-0. Now, it will try to exact some revenge. The Skiers host No. 15 Yuma, a 52-43 winner over No. 18 Denver Christian in earlier action Friday, at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The two squads met in last year’s fifth-place game at the Great Eight, with the Indians prevailing. Now, they will be battling for a return trip to Fort Collins.

“We have to make it back. This is the last chance for a lot of players on this team,” guard Matthew Holmes said. “We have to give it our all.”

That sense of desperation was evident at the onset Friday, when six different Skiers scored at least two points during the first eight minutes as Aspen jumped out to a 13-3 advantage.

Papenfus stretched the lead to 19 with two 3’s in the first 90 seconds of the second quarter, prompting the Wildcats (9-14) to call a timeout. The senior scored 12 of his team-high 13 in the first 16 minutes, propelling the Skiers to a 29-9 halftime lead.

Things took a turn for the worse from there, however.

“Without a doubt, it was the worst half we’ve played all year,” Ketchum said. “We were very sloppy, very lackluster. It was horrible.”

“We didn’t come out with the fire that coach wanted,” Holmes added.

Especially on offense. Aspen went 31⁄2 minutes without a bucket to open the third quarter.

The Skiers did capitalize on their distinct size advantage in the final minutes, however. Bridger Dawson, Zack Babich and Nick Codd – all 6-foot-5 or taller – combined for 13 of the team’s 14 points in the frame. Dawson finished with 11.

Their contributions helped the Skiers cruise despite an off night from reigning 3A Western Slope player of the year Holmes. The senior scored just two points – nearly nine below his season average – and made a host of uncharacteristic turnovers.

In the fourth quarter, he tried to feed the post and wound up tossing the ball well out of bounds. He could do little more than shake his head as he jogged back on defense.

“Things just weren’t clicking for me out there,” Holmes said. “It’s a good thing we had some people off the bench step up.”

“I went down to talk to him on the bench and said, ‘What’s wrong?’ He said, ‘I’m saving it for tomorrow,'” Ketchum recalled. “OK. I’ll take that.”

The coach will need contributions from his star guard today against a familiar foe. The Skiers escaped with a 50-46 win over the Indians in 2008’s state quarterfinals, but were not as fortunate in last year’s consolation final. Indians guard Jaden Winger scored 23 points, and Aspen missed 17 of 18 from behind the arc in a 48-39 loss.

“We definitely have to come out with confidence, play our game and scare them,” Papenfus said. “When we do that, I think we’re the best team in the state.”

Ketchum called Yuma the top defensive squad in 3A. After scouting the Indians on Friday, however, the coach has other concerns.

“They’re so well disciplined, so well coached and can definitely drain the 3s. I counted six different guys drain the 3-ball,” Ketchum said. “They’re so quick getting to the rim, too. … Let’s pray we score, and pray we can stop them. I really don’t know if we can.

“I hope we learned a lot from last year’s game. … This one’s going to be tough.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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