AHS boys earn good seed for regional
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Two out of three ain’t bad. And neither is a top-10 regional-tournament seeding.
The Aspen High School boys basketball team isn’t completely happy with its performance at the 3A Western Slope League district tournament last weekend, but the Skiers are pleased with the final result – they earned a No. 8 seed in this week’s regional tournament by winning two of their three games.
And, as the Skiers fight their way to a spot in the state tournament, they get to do it on their home court.
Aspen started tournament play on Thursday in Palisade with a 57-45 win over Rangely. It was a good start for the Skiers, coach Steve Ketchum said – during the teams’ first meeting this season, AHS had pulled out a 17-point victory, and a second matchup was a confidence booster for Aspen.
Junior Nick Farrell led the scoring Thursday with 17 points, followed by senior Jeff Brence with 14 points, junior Phil Salazar with 11 and junior Josh Lackey with 10.
“You love to have several kids in double figures – it means you’re harder to guard,” Ketchum said.
The tournament took a turn on Friday when AHS met “archrival” Eagle Valley. Ketchum said the pressure was on both teams – AHS had squeaked out a victory in the regular season thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-point shot by Farrell.
“They really had dominated the game, and we felt like we just got lucky – Nick pulled that game out by himself,” Ketchum said.
Aspen almost made a repeat performance Friday. The Skiers were down 28-21 at halftime, then “came out in the third quarter and played worse,” Ketchum said. AHS trailed by 22 points with about 4:30 left in the game when the team called a timeout.
“We said, the only chance we possibly have is to press the heck out of them and go all out,” Ketchum said.
The press sparked one of the biggest comebacks in Ketchum’s coaching career – AHS actually earned a two-point lead as the fourth quarter wound down.
“Unfortunately, we did not do a good job of boxing them out,” Ketchum said. “They got the offensive rebound and made a layup to tie the game with six seconds left.”
The game went into overtime, but the Skiers were too exhausted to keep up Ketchum said – AHS lost 81-66. Farrell once again “carried the team on his shoulders” with 29 points, and though Brence had been double-teamed throughout much of the game, he earned 11 points in the second half.
The loss to Eagle Valley put AHS, once again, in “that sinister third-place game,” Ketchum said.
“It seems like every year, no matter how we do, we end up in that third-place game,” he said.
The Skiers met Carbondale rival Roaring Fork on Saturday and came away with a 66-55 win. Farrell led the scoring with 32 points, and kicked in six assists and six steals to push the team to a win. Brence contributed 18 points of his own, giving Ketchum’s “Dynamic Duo” 50 of the team’s 66 points.
No. 8 seed AHS (19-3) will now host No. 25 seed Bennett (14-8) Tuesday at the Skierdome. Another win will see Aspen face the winner of the Roaring Fork-Lake County game.
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