Hoops: Aspen holds off Eagle Valley, improves to 2-0 | AspenTimes.com

Hoops: Aspen holds off Eagle Valley, improves to 2-0

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

The kids are all right.

By his own admission, Aspen High boys basketball coach Steve Ketchum had no idea what to expect when his young, inexperienced squad took the court for Thursday’s season opener. What has transpired in 48 minutes on the Glenwood Springs High School hardwood during the first two days of the Demon Invitational had the Skiers’ staff shaking their heads and laughing at dinner Friday night.

Aspen has navigated a tough early-

season schedule with great aplomb. One night after dispatching Glenwood Springs in convincing fashion, the Skiers outlasted another 4A school. Paced by a productive night from junior Trent Lichtenwalter, 3A Aspen topped Eagle Valley, 66-58.

“The last time we talked, I told you we easily could’ve been 0-2 by this point,” Ketchum said. “It seems like our chemistry is really starting to click. I didn’t expect that. I figured these young kids would all be selfish, but this group likes playing together and sharing the ball.”

It has proven it can adjust on the fly, too. The Skiers opened in zone and struggled to keep the Devils off the offensive glass during a back-and-forth first half. They trailed by two at the break.

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Then came a switch to man-to-man. Eagle Valley cooled off, and balanced Aspen pulled ahead.

Josh Baker scored 14 points – nine on pivotal 3’s – Clayton Craword pitched in with 12 and Luke Rider and Evan Patzoldt combined for 17. Fresh off his 25-point effort in the opener, Lichtenwalter scored 20 – many on uncontested transition lay-ups.

“They were running a 2-2-1 full-court press, Trent was in the back, and they left him alone,” Skiers assistant Greg Gerbaz said. “We did a good job breaking their press, and he was the recipient of a lot of easy baskets.”

Added Ketchum, “They made a big run at us in the fourth, but the guys handled the pressure. I’m shocked with how well they handled the traps. We hardly had any turnovers and had at least 10 lay-ups at the other end.

“I’m not sure quite what was going on. We were like 16 of 18 from the free-throw line, and we shot really well from the field. These guys look like they’re getting a little smarter and a little wiser every game. I’m proud of how they all played.”

Ketchum hopes the maturation continues today, when Aspen squares off with five-time defending 3A state champion Faith Christian. The Eagles spoiled the Skiers’ championship-game debut in 2010, winning 57-47 at Colorado State University’s Moby Arena.

“They’re unbelievable, as always,” Ketchum said of Faith. “It’s absolutely going to be an exciting game. We’ll give it our best shot, play as hard as we can and hopefully learn a lot along the way.”