AHS girls down Cedaredge, boys fall; teams eye districts

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

It was a night of close calls for the Aspen High School basketball program Friday.

The boys and girls teams hosted Cedaredge in the last game of the regular season. Both games were decided in the last minute, but produced different results – a one-point win for the Skier girls and a four-point loss for the boys.

On the girls side, Aspen went on a tear early, building a 30-18 lead at halftime. However, frequent trips to the foul line allowed Cedaredge to catch up, and the Skiers’ lead had been trimmed to 33-31 at the close of the third quarter.

Foul trouble continued for both teams well into the fourth. It was Aspen’s youngest varsity player, however, who sank the biggest baskets.

“Our game-winning free throw was made by our freshman, Carly Magill,” said coach Lance Finkbeiner. “That’s the second time she’s had a game-winning shot this year.”

Aspen walked away with a 48-47 victory, boosting the team’s winning streak to five games.

Though the game isn’t a factor in the upcoming 3A Western Slope district tournament, which begins Tuesday, Finkbeiner said the win was a confidence booster for Aspen entering the playoffs.

“It’s just a big win for us going into tournament time, even though it didn’t mean anything,” he said. “They beat us by one earlier in the year, so it was nice to get them back.”

Lizzie Suiter and Tara Walker each scored a game-high 12 points – including four 3-pointers by Walker. Alex Bethel followed with eight points, six steals and six assists.

The AHS boys saw the same sort of rough-and-tumble match during their 7:30 p.m. game.

Cedaredge jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the opening minutes. Senior Phil Salazar put the Skiers on the board not long afterward – first with a steal and layup, and again when sent to the foul line.

AHS wrestled a 14-13 lead out of the first quarter, led by seniors Zac Paris, Josh Lackey, Ty Gartner and Nick Farrell. At halftime, it was Cedaredge eking out a one-point lead, 26-25.

Farrell led a Skier push in the third quarter, hitting a 3-pointer and a jump shot that tied the game at 30. Field goals by Lackey and Salazar helped push AHS to a 42-38 lead at the end of the third.

Cedaredge closed the gap in the opening seconds of the final period with two quick baskets, followed by multiple trips to the foul line. The team built a 52-51 lead with two minutes to go and sealed the 55-51 win with three free throws.

Farrell led the Skiers with 19 points, followed by Salazar with nine. Gartner, Lackey and junior Moss Schermerhorn scored five points each.

It was a disappointing loss, AHS coach Steve Ketchum said, but considering Cedaredge’s record – the team is now 18-1 and ranked sixth in the state – the Skiers fared pretty well.

The Aspen High boys and girls teams are now focusing on the opening matchup of the 3A Western Slope district tournament.

The girls will play their first district game at 6 p.m. Tuesday, when they host Eagle Valley at the new Aspen High School gym. As usual, the Skiers are optimistic but wary of the lower-ranked team.

“We beat them twice this year by 20-plus points, but we’re definitely not overlooking them,” Finkbeiner said. “Come playoffs, anything can happen.”

If the Aspen girls were to look past Eagle Valley, however, they might see neighbor and rival Basalt – the Longhorns, after all, won the league championship Friday night by beating Roaring Fork. An Aspen win on Tuesday would most likely mean a matchup with Basalt on Thursday in the district semifinals, Finkbeiner said.

“We’d like that – we’ve had better success with Basalt than we have with Roaring Fork,” he said. “We feel like a third game is kind of in store.”

The Aspen boys’ game will follow the girls at 7:30 Tuesday.

“The unlucky opponent will be Olathe, who we just beat [on Feb. 14] by 60,” Ketchum said.

This game might be a tense one for the Skiers. After the teams’ last matchup, Olathe’s coach accused Aspen of intentionally running up the score, even though Ketchum played all 13 kids suited up for the game.

With that in mind, Olathe will be ready for its district debut.

“I’m expecting them to pull some tricks out of the hat. They’re capable of playing so much better than they showed us,” Ketchum said. “We’re fully going to be prepared for them freezing the ball, stalling the ball, or whatever they come up with in their bag of tricks.”

Though Olathe lost to Eagle Valley over the weekend, the underdogs held their own during the game’s first half, Ketchum said.

“It was 9-7 at the end of the first quarter – Olathe was only down two against a quality ball club,” he said.

Aspen will have to prepare for a repeat of that performance, Ketchum said.