Hoops: Skiers girls hope to build on late-season surge | AspenTimes.com

Hoops: Skiers girls hope to build on late-season surge

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesBasalt students cheer on their team during last season's district tournament in Palisade.

ASPEN – Aspen head coach Jeremy Haack called it the most exciting time in his decade-long coaching career.

His Skiers, who last year had been overlooked and written off after some early-season struggles, somehow clawed their way back into playoff contention. They won five of their last nine games, knocked off rival Basalt in a district-tournament elimination game, then pulled off an improbable double-overtime victory against Cedaredge to sneak into the state tournament.

Senior Lindsey Anderson sank two free throws with just .3 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime against the Bruins. Later, she converted a key bucket to help seal a dramatic win.

Anderson, the Skiers’ top scorer and floor leader whom Haack once referred to as “The heart and soul of our team,” has moved on. Still, Haack is convinced Aspen, which finished fifth in the 3A Western Slope a season ago, can improve this winter.

“Lindsey was a special player that meant a lot to our team and our program,” the coach said Wednesday. “At the same time, you’ve got a group of 10 girls that have committed themselves in the offseason and summer to getting better and making the team better. They’re ready to step up and fill the roles that Lindsey left behind.”

In addition to Anderson, the Skiers lost key contributors Caroline Kelley, Morgan Kimmel and Georgia Lipkin from a squad that challenged Pagosa Springs in a first-round state tournament loss.

Recommended Stories For You

In tonight’s season opener against visiting Battle Mountain, Aspen will start one sophomore and four juniors.

“Last year, we obviously had more height. This year we’re a lot smaller, a lot more athletic and a lot quicker,” Haack said. “We’re going to use that to our advantage.

“We’ve talked a lot about what we want our identity to be. We just want to [apply] constant defensive pressure and run the floor on every opportunity. … I told the girls, ‘Be that team you hate to play against.'”

Leading the charge will be returning starters Jonelle Berklund and Bailey Everhart, who led the team in rebounding and was second in scoring last year. Hayley Kremer, Savannah Johnson and sophomore point guard Anna Stevens are also expected to start.

“Any one of our starting five are capable [of being a go-to player],” Haack said. “The whole team is still relatively young, so there will be areas where we struggle. Wherever they may be, we’ll make up for it with hard work and intensity.

“Mistakes are going to happen, but this team plays so incredibly hard they will be able to overcome those mistakes.”

BASALT – The 2009-2010 season was largely a forgettable one for the Basalt girls.

The Longhorns won just 6 of 20 games and the year ended with a deflating 59-41 home loss to rival Aspen, which knocked them out of district and state tournament contention.

New head coach Lauren Redfern, a 2004 Basalt graduate and last year’s junior varsity coach, is hoping to inject some life into the Longhorns and help restore some of the program’s luster.

“I’m not expecting to win every game – I sure hope we win a lot of games – but I want to bring a certain intensity to the program that is really needed,” the first-time head coach said. “I just want these girls to be successful in the fact that they are eligible to play and we compete every game. If we play our hearts out, that’s all I can ask. If we do that, I know we’ll be successful no matter what the score.”

In its effort to replace the contributions of departing players Katelyn Timroth, Nicole Booth, Mackenzie Buck, Emily Morley and Ashley Soucie, Basalt will rely on a strong group of seniors. Jamie Matherly and Nancy Hernandez return in the backcourt, and Julia Kapustka and Nancy Alvarado should provide some interior scoring.

“We have a lot of players that like to take it to the rack, and a lot of great defensive players,” Redfern said.

The Longhorns will be tested this weekend. They open with 4A Glenwood Springs today and 4A Steamboat Springs on Saturday in the Brenda Patch Tournament in Carbondale.

“I’m pretty nervous but I’m also excited,” Redfern said. “All I want to do is come out and give them a run for their money.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com