AHS, BHS boys hit road together | AspenTimes.com

AHS, BHS boys hit road together

Steve Benson
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Fierce rivals one day, best friends the next.

Aspen and Basalt open the 32-team bracket of the Class 3A boys high school basketball tourney this weekend in Pagosa Springs, located in central Colorado near the New Mexico border, and the two may make the long trip south together.

“We’re going to try to travel down together,” Aspen coach Steve Ketchum said. “The kids like each other, and we’re going to be pulling for each other.”

Aspen (14-8), seeded No. 17, faces off with No. 16 Kent Denver (18-5), a team AHS lost to by seven points in early December.

Basalt (7-15), seeded last out of 32 teams, faces top-seeded Pagosa Springs (20-0). Both games will be played Friday night with the winners squaring off Saturday for the right to advance to the Great Eight of the Class 3A state tourney. From here on in, losers are eliminated.

Aspen High earned a berth in the field of 32 after beating Basalt in the first round of the Class 3A Western Slope League district tournament last Tuesday. The Skiers, No. 3 seeds in the eight-team district tourney, went on to upset No. 2 Eagle Valley on Thursday in Rifle to advance to the championship game against Roaring Fork on Saturday, only to lose big against the undefeated Rams 72-31.

After falling to the Skiers, the Longhorns rebounded and came up with two victories over Hotchkiss and Cedaredge to slip into the 32-team field.

Despite facing the top-seeded team in the state Friday night, Mike Green, Basalt’s head coach, is optimistic.

“The halfs we play extremely well we can match with everybody in the state,” he said. “We want to go on and this gives us the opportunity to play another game, and we’d rather be playing than staying home.

“You never know, anything can happen.”

While Aspen will be looking to redeem their early season loss to Kent Denver, they’ll also be trying to forget their rough encounter with Roaring Fork that included only five Skier points in the first half.

“That was without a doubt our worst start of the season, I’m just glad we scored in the first half,” Ketchum said, adding his team came to life in the locker room at halftime.

“The kids got real aggressive, I was proud of them and how they handled themselves,” he said. “They didn’t do anything stupid, they didn’t freak out or blame it on the refs, they took responsibility and they showed a lot of class.”

Juniors David Porter and Joe Turner also came off the bench to shine for Aspen, Ketchum said.

“They came in and really made something happen,” he said. “They provided a spark and I’m pleased with their effort.”

Furthermore, Ketchum said the team’s achievements this season far exceeded the expectations.

“I don’t think anybody thought we’d finish in the top half of the league,” he said. “Making it to the championship game was phenomenal for these kids, my hats off to them.”

Both teams leave for Pagosa Springs on Thursday.