Aspen basketball seniors close out regular season |

Aspen basketball seniors close out regular season

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen Skiers will celebrate Senior Night before Friday’s Western Slope League basketball games against Gunnison, the final regular-season games of the season.

But after the Senior Night festivities, the focus will land on the crucial conference matchups.

“Senior Night, I’ve told everyone, happens before the game starts,” said Steve Ketchum, Aspen’s head boys basketball coach.

“We’ve got three seniors (on the boys team),” Ketchum said. “Two of them, I’ve had all four years (in high school).”

He said the team and the fans will give the three seniors a big tribute before the game.

“But the game is about one. The game is about the team,” Ketchum said with the AHS boys in position to win the Western Slope League title.

That would take a win by the Aspen boys over Gunnison and a loss by current league-leader Roaring Fork (15-3 overall, 14-1 in conference), scheduled to host Cedaredge (7-11, 5-10) Friday.

The Aspen boys (15-3 overall, 13-2 in conference) will take on Gunnison (6-11, 6-8) at 7 p.m. at the Aspen High School gym.

The evening will open with the Aspen girls (2-16, 1-14) taking on Gunnison (2-15, 2-12) at 5:30 p.m.

“Gunnison is always competitive,” Ketchum said. “They about beat us last year on Senior Night.”

He said the Skiers must be ready from tonight’s opening whistle.

All three seniors will start for the Aspen boys against Gunnison, Ketchum said.

Seniors Daniel Swartz and Josh Baker have been a part of Aspen basketball throughout high school, he said.

A third senior, Taylor Henschke, fit right into the roster when he came to Aspen from his home in New Hampshire for his final semester of high school.

He’s living with his sister, who is a teacher in Aspen, Ketchum said

“He hadn’t played competitive basketball in two years.

“But he fit in right away,” Ketchum said, describing a tough, hard-nosed defender.

“He loves it here, and the team loves him. What a great addition he’s been,” said Ketchum, in his 15th season at the helm of the Skiers.

“When he showed up, I said we’ve got another Daniel Swartz, only taller,” Ketchum said.

Swartz, Ketchum said, is the emotional leader of the Aspen boys varsity.

“He’s a tough guy. I think he’s one of the best defensive players on the Western Slope,” he said of the senior co-captain.

“He guards the other team’s best player, even if it’s a Trae Moxley from Roaring Fork,” Ketchum said of the Rams’ senior (6-5, 260), who will play football at Colorado State University next year.

Baker returns to action for the Skiers after missing several weeks with a hand injury.

“He’s silent but deadly,” Ketchum said. “We call him ‘Stealth.'”

The Aspen coach said Baker has been associated with Aspen basketball for years.

“He’s made two trips to Europe with me as part of the Aspen Basketball Academy. I saw Josh grow up,” Ketchum said.

He recalled a few years ago when Baker was “about 5 feet and 70 pounds.”

Now, it’s a different story.

“He’s blossomed into a good-looking 6-3,” Ketchum said.

Out since early January, Baker rejoined the Skiers for his first full practice just this week.

“He has stayed in great shape, though,” Ketchum said.

“He might be a little tentative since he hasn’t played. But this is his time.”

The Aspen boys will be after their 10th consecutive win Friday.

“We need to play really hard,” Ketchum said.

The seniors on the Aspen High School girls basketball team also will be recognized before Friday’s final regular-season game.

The AHS seniors are Annabelle Wilcox, Anna Stevens, Kaitlyn Black, Maggie Ryan and Tateh Hopper.

The Aspen girls will be out to reverse a 26-13 loss at Gunnison earlier this season.

The two victories for the AHS girls this season came against Lake County (Leadville) and Basalt.

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