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Season ends for Lady Skiers

Ben Husband

GRAND JUNCTION – Last year at this time, the Aspen High School girls’ basketball team was celebrating a District Championship.

A week later, the Skiers won the 3A Regional game to advance to the State Tournament for the first time in 17 years.

Today, after the Class 3A District Tournament at Central High School last weekend, the Skiers are cleaning out their lockers trying to figure out what went wrong.

Aspen, which entered Districts as the No. 4 seed, dropped two games and ended their season and ended the hopes of getting back to state.

The Skiers began the District Tournament with a 55-47 loss to top-seeded Rangely and the final blow was a 53-41 loss to Roaring Fork in the critical third-place game.

“We should be celebrating right now,” AHS senior Whitney Gordon said. “We played so hard – that’s the best we’ve played together all season long.”

Gordon, playing in her final game at Aspen, said walking off the floor knowing her career at AHS is over was, indeed, tough.

“It’s hard for me because I am a senior,” she said. “I would have liked to have gotten a win.”

The Skiers dropped their final four games of the season – the final two of the regular season to Roaring Fork and Basalt and the two losses at Districts – after an impressive season in which Aspen went undefeated in league play at home and jumped out a 5-0 start in league play.

“This is certainly disappointing,” AHS coach Brent Waldron said. “We had our chances and that’s all you can ask for to put yourself back in a position to go back to Regionals.”

Against Rangely, Aspen fell behind early 10-2 as the Panthers built a comfortable 14-6 first-quarter lead.

In the second period, Aspen ignited and outscored Rangely 15-12, cutting the lead to just three at halftime, 26-23.

In that period, Gordon scored 11 of her 16 points including two 3-pointers that brought the Skiers to within in one (22-21) with two minutes remaining.

In the third period and Rangely up one (26-25), the Panthers went on a 9-0 run en route to a 40-30 lead heading into the final period of play.

There, Rangely used a tough inside game to close the door on any hopes of an Aspen comeback.

Junior Kelli Dangler added 12 points for Aspen.

Against Roaring Fork with the final Regional berth on the line, the Skiers fell behind 22-14 at the half and never recovered. Junior Jill Evans scored 14 points to lead the Skiers.

“This is really tough,” said senior Nicole Reno, “because we should have won; we had the potential to win.”

Evans, who led the team in scoring this season, said there were expectations of getting back to state, but their season didn’t depend on it.

“It wasn’t like we had to go back to the State Tournament,” Evans said. “It would have been nice to get back and it’s hard knowing that you’re not going back.”

Junior Rebecca Anderson, who took over for Cari Taylor, had an outstanding season after little playing time a year ago. She said losing was “definitely tough.”

“I think that we played really well for the most part for what was supposed to be a rebuilding year,” Anderson added.

Coach Waldron said the team had “an outstanding reconstructing year.”

“We started all over,” he said. “We had to replace the majority of our offense and defense and I think that we won some games this year on heart.”

“We did the opposite of what we did last year,” Gordon said. “We hit our peak at the middle of this season and come tournament time, we just didn’t get it done.

“At least I can go out saying that we finished playing as a team,” Gordon added.

“I think we exceeded everyone’s expectations this year,” Gordon added.

“We did a lot of things that we never expected to do, but most of all, I think we came together as a team,” she continued.

“We had a point at the season where we were unstoppable and it’s too bad it couldn’t have come at tournament time.”

For more coverage of the Skiers, see Friday’s Aspen Times Weekly sports section.


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