A pair of wins for Aspen basketball | AspenTimes.com

A pair of wins for Aspen basketball

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – No. 2 has a lot of work to do.

The Aspen boys basketball team, ranked second in The Denver Post’s preseason 3A hoops poll, hardly looked the part of a state title contender in Friday’s season opener. The Skiers stumbled out of the gates on their home floor against The Classical Academy, struggled at the free throw line and committed a slew of turnovers.

At least their record remains unblemished. Aspen squandered a double-digit lead during the latter stages of the fourth quarter, but hung on for a 53-44 win over the Titans.

“I thought the effort was really good, but of course there were a lot of mistakes on opening night. It’s not like they weren’t expected,” Skiers head coach Steve Ketchum said. “I can’t complain too much. This team had us down 15 [in last year’s season opener], and I think they’re better this year. We played just well enough to get it.”

For that the Skiers can thank reigning 3A Western Slope player of the year Matthew Holmes. With his team struggling offensively in the early stages of Friday’s game – the Skiers trailed, 12-9, after the first eight minutes – the senior guard took matters into his own hands. He drained three 3-pointers and bulled his way into the lane on multiple occasions in a second quarter in which he scored 13 and Aspen outscored Classical, 23-7.

Holmes scored five straight points during the Skiers’ 7-0 run to close out the first half, which gave them a 32-19 advantage.

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His contributions were sorely needed on a night when the other members of Aspen’s big three showed some early-season rust. Zach Babich scored 12 points but was saddled with foul trouble for the bulk of the second half. Andrew Papenfus had as many fouls (three) as points until the final two minutes of the game, when he went 3-of-6 from the foul line to help seal the win. He had just one field goal.

The Skiers missed 18 of 34 free throw attempts.

“We’re capable of playing much better,” Ketchum said.

Babich scored underneath, then Holmes finished in transition in the early stages of the third quarter to give Aspen its largest lead of the game at 36-19. The Skiers could muster just four points in the next six-plus minutes, however, and the Titans pulled to within 12 after Weston Holmes hit a 3 and Sean Durck scored in the paint on consecutive possessions in the final few minutes.

Aaron Coughlin scored on the opening possession of the fourth, then Holmes scored after a Skiers turnover to cut the lead to eight and force Ketchum to burn a timeout just 44 seconds into the quarter.

Classical twice pulled to within six, then to within five with 1 minute, 46 seconds to play when Zach Gee drove by his defender, absorbed a bump in the lane and finished off the glass.

Matthew Holmes had an answer on the ensuing Skiers possession, when he spotted a hole in the defense and drove uncontested all the way to the rim.

The Titans, who nearly pulled off an upset last season in Aspen, came up short once more.

The Skiers host Eagle Valley at 4 p.m. Saturday.

When Aspen girls basketball coach Jeremy Haack describes his team, he uses words like speed, athleticism and ability.

Those traits were on display in Friday’s season opener against visiting Battle Mountain. The Skiers attacked the rim on offense, frustrated the Huskies’ ball handlers with full-court pressure and an active zone defense and rolled to a 61-29 win.

“We want our identity to be a tough pressing team,” Haack said. “The girls have put so much work in. … In 2 1/2 weeks, we haven’t had a bad practice yet.”

Bailey Everhart, Lindsey Anderson and Caroline Kelley each scored during the opening minutes of the first quarter as Aspen jumped out to a 10-3 lead. That advantage ballooned to 10 after eight minutes.

That trend continued during a second quarter in which the Skiers did not allow one Battle Mountain field goal. The Huskies could do little to solve the press or the trap, which resulted in a multitude of turnovers and transition buckets the other way. In half-court sets, Aspen guarded tightly on the perimeter and contested nearly every shot in the lane.

Everhart and Anderson combined for 23 first-half points as Aspen took a 34-16 lead into the locker room. The duo finished with 35 in the game.

“They’re excited,” Haack said of his players. “They know they have a lot of potential. … They’re a lot of fun to coach.”

The dominant effort continued in the third quarter, as the Skiers surrendered just four points and built their lead to 29.

“This is a great groups of girls. They’re not afraid of hard work and they have tremendous athletic ability,” Haack said. “We have to keep this in perspective and get better every day and see where that gets us once conference play hits.”

Aspen hosts Eagle Valley at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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