AHS girls move on to regional
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Two career-best performances helped the Aspen High School girls basketball team survive the Class 3A Western Slope League district tournament, as well as earn a berth to regionals later this week.
The team got off to a shaky start Thursday in the tournament’s first round – AHS entered the 11-team tourney with a matchup against Carbondale rival Roaring Fork. AHS coach Lance Finkbeiner said the team had managed a 20-12 lead at the half, but a “big third quarter” from Roaring Fork gave them a 40-34 win over Aspen.
“We just shot really poorly – we missed a lot of easy shots, and that cost us the game,” he said. “At the same time, we actually came back in the fourth and tied it with a minute to go. We got a couple of questionable calls, and didn’t get the calls we needed … they ended up winning by six in a very, very close game.”
The loss created a do-or-die situation for the Skiers on Friday – if they weren’t able to earn a win over Eagle Valley, they would be knocked from the tournament. The Skiers trailed at the half, but senior Lizzie Suiter scored a career-high 29 points – Finkbeiner said Suiter ended the evening 12-for-12 – and teammate Mur Hale hit five 3-pointers as Aspen posted a 51-41 win.
After two nights in Rifle, AHS traveled to Palisade on Saturday to play for the tournament’s fifth-place spot. The girls were guaranteed a trip to regional competition, no matter what the outcome – the top six district teams move on to regional play, and the Skiers were sure of a seeding even with a loss.
Maybe the no-pressure situation helped Aspen to their 54-44 win over Paonia. Or maybe it was, as Finkbeiner put it, “The Lacee Patterson Show.”
“She was phenomenal – she had five threes and ended up with 30 points, which is by far her career high,” he said. “I gave her the most difficult defensive assignment – she guarded the other team’s best player by far. I told her, ‘the goal is to have you shut her down,’ and not only did she hold her to six points … she scored 30 on her own.”
Suiter ended the night with the usual double-digit figure – this time with 17 points. And the Skiers came back to Aspen Saturday afternoon with a win that had taken them all season to earn – AHS had lost its two previous meetings with Paonia, Finkbeiner said.
The Skiers now move on to play No. 9 seed Platte Valley on Tuesday in the first round of regional tournament play. Though AHS is seeded No. 24 after district play, the teams’ records speak for themselves, Finkbeiner said.
“They’re actually 15-7 and we’re 14-9, so they’re beatable,” he said.
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Like most high school sports programs across the nation right now, Garfield County athletics directors are seeing fewer applicants for open coaching positions. Five years ago vacant positions were filled within just a couple of days.