Skiers boys hold off Conifer | AspenTimes.com

Skiers boys hold off Conifer

Jon Maletz

For the past three seasons, the Skiers boys basketball team walked away from the Steamboat Springs Shootout with nine losses ” and no wins.

Things changed Thursday: Aspen ( 2-1 overall), on the strength of solid defense and yet another stellar per­formance from Cory Parker, upset 4A Conifer, 52-51.

“We hung on and played great defense down the stretch,” Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum said. “We didn’t give up anything easy. This is a big win for us, and it’s really encour­aging considering how young we are.”

Aspen won in Steamboat Springs five years ago. Since, it has finished no higher than third in the four- team tournament. Saturday, it watched a large first-half lead evaporate, but didn’t fold.

The Skiers, who led 26-18 at the break, trailed by three after the third quarter. They held Lobos standout Jeff Dolan, averaging more than 20 points in three games, scoreless dur­ing the first 16 minutes. Dolan broke out in the second half with 13 points.

The teams exchanged leads throughout much of the fourth. With time ticking off, Aspen looked to Parker. The junior, who is averaging 25 points a game, delivered a crushing blow: After a defensive stop, Parker took the ball down low, absorbed a bump and scored. He hit the free throw to put Aspen up by five.

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Parker, who was 12-of-15 from the line, was fouled again under the bas­ket in the waning seconds. He calmly sank both shots to put Aspen ahead by four. A desperation 3-pointer by Conifer at the buzzer banked off the backboard and found the net.

The Lobos came up short.

“They chucked something up with four hands in their face, and it went in,” Ketchum said. “We played smart at the end. And this time we got the ball to the right guy in the end.”

Aspen advances to tonight’s win­ners bracket final to face Steamboat Springs. The host team beat Basalt, 66-39, in other opening- round action Thursday.

The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.