Tale of two games for Aspen’s boys
It was a tale of two games for the Aspen High School boys basketball team over the weekend: It was the best of times Thursday night, but it was the worst of times Saturday.
Aspen followed up a stirring 62-50 win over Grand Valley, the state’s second-ranked 2A team, with a heartbreaking 62-56 double-overtime loss to Belleview Christian, a 1A school from Westminster, leaving the Skiers’ season record at 4-2 as they head into the holiday break.
Against Grand Valley, which has a roster featuring 10 seniors and two all-state performers, Aspen played what head coach Steve Ketchum called the team’s best defensive game of the year to shut down the Cardinals’ normally potent attack.
“We played great,” Ketchum said. “We played great defense, and Robert Tomaszek really stepped up for us.”
Tomaszek, a 6-foot-8 senior exchange student from Germany, scored 22 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in the win. Senior guard Corey Robinson added 14 points and six rebounds for the Skiers, but it was Aspen’s defensive effort that really made the difference.
The Skiers held Grand Valley’s Rusty Angel, an all-stater who averages nearly 25 points a game, to 12 points and limited Jake Higuera, the Cardinals’ other big gun, to a paltry four points, almost 16 below his season average. High hopes Following the win over Grand Valley, the Skiers had high hopes for Saturday’s matchup with Belleview Christian, a school with an enrollment of just 90 students.
One of those students, however, just happens to be the No. 1 senior prospect in the state, Jonathon Sanders, a 6-foot-7 point guard who will be playing for Colorado State University next year.
Aspen hoped to counteract Sanders’ play by having Tomaszek step up and double team him whenever he tried to drive the lane, but the big German came down wrong on his ankle after the opening tip and had to leave the game. Forced to change strategy, Ketchum inserted 6-foot-8 junior Blake Beyea to try to guard Sanders, but met with little success.
In the game’s first five minutes, Beyea, Jeff Brence and Talbott Walker all tried their hand at slowing down the big point guard, but without Tomaszek to clog up the middle, Aspen’s defense had little chance.
Sanders scored 13 points in the first quarter on a variety of spin moves, jump shots and one poster-quality dunk to stake the Bruins to a 19-15 edge after one period. To his credit, Beyea kept the Skiers in the game offensively, scoring Aspen’s first four points and inspiring the team with a hustling save and some strong work on the offensive glass.
With his ankle taped up and limping noticeably, Tomaszek returned for the second quarter and instantly made his presence felt with a block and nine points to pull Aspen to within one at halftime, 27-26.
Tomaszek continued his hot shooting in the third quarter, scoring six quick points to give Aspen a 32-29 lead, and the Skiers ratcheted up the defensive intensity with a full-court press that lead to a number of Belleview turnovers.
With Brence frustrating him at every turn and Tomaszek helping with the double team, Sanders was limited to six points in the quarter, but the Bruins’ Enoch Miller nailed a clutch 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into the fourth quarter tied at 36. Missed opportunities Aspen kept up the stingy defense in the fourth quarter and took a 43-39 lead with 54 seconds to go after Robinson scored off an offensive rebound and Tomaszek hit a foul shot.
The Skiers then spread the floor to try to kill the clock, but Belleview’s Tony Niehaus hit a big 3-pointer to pull the Bruins within one, 43-42.
With time winding down, Belleview fouled Aspen’s Nick Farrell, but the freshman point guard was unable to convert his free throw chances, leaving the door ajar for the Bruins. Tomaszek hit one foul shot with 25 seconds to play, making Aspen’s lead two points, but Sanders nailed a 16-foot jumper at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
In the extra frame, Belleview opened up a three-point lead with 20 seconds to play when Sanders hit two free throws, but then Farrell tracked down a missed shot by Tomaszek and stuck a game-tying 3-pointer with eight seconds to go to deadlock the game once again.
Niehaus hit another 3-pointer to open the second overtime, but then, with 3:03 to play, Sanders fouled out and Aspen looked to be in the driver’s seat.
But the Skiers missed a number of key shots down the stretch and couldn’t make their free throws when they needed to, and the Bruins, despite Sanders absence, held on for the win.
After the game, Ketchum expressed disappointment in his team’s inability to convert foul shots.
“We had a chance to win the game in regulation, in the first overtime and in the second overtime,” he said, “but we couldn’t make a free throw. They beat us without the best player in the state.”
For the game, Sanders led all scorers with 32 points. Tomaszek paced the Skiers with 26 in three quarters of work. Girls pick up a win The Aspen High girls team was supposed to have played two games over the weekend as well, but Belleview wasn’t able to field a full squad and didn’t make the trip, meaning the Skiers’ only game was against Grand Valley on Thursday night.
Aspen made the most of that opportunity, however, with a great team effort that resulted in a 67-45 victory.
With star player Marta Losonczy slowed by an illness she has been fighting for over a week, Aspen had to look to other players to take up the slack and found them in the starting backcourt duo of Kelli Dangler and Ellen Falender.
Dangler lead the way for the Skiers with 18 points and nine rebounds, and Falender, the player of the game, just missed a triple-double with 10 points, 10 steals and eight assists as Aspen rolled to its fourth victory in five games.
“All the girls really stepped up nicely,” said Aspen coach Lance Finkbeiner.
Center Rebecca Anderson had 17 points for the Skiers in the win.
Forward Jill Evans contributed 12 points and five rebounds, and guard Jennifer Snook won the team’s heart award for a performance that included six points, six rebounds and six assists.
Both Aspen teams will now take an extended break for the holidays before returning to action in January.
The boys will travel to Craig for a game against Moffat County on Jan. 7, and the girls will get back in the swing of things Jan. 8 when they host Steamboat Springs.
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