Aspen boys avoid meltdown against Eagle Valley |

Aspen boys avoid meltdown against Eagle Valley

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

ASPEN” Eagle Valley’s Cesar Castillo gave the Aspen faithful quite a scare, turning a laugher into a nail-biter ” at least for four minutes.

The diminutive guard score 12 points in the waning minutes of Saturday’s game against the host Skiers, and the Devils trimmed a 25-point deficit to 10. A few empty possessions quelled the threat, however, and Aspen, on the strength of dominant play in the second and third quarters, escaped with a 60-50 victory.

Aspen coach Steve Ketchum rolled his eyes and flashed a grin as he headed for the locker room.

“When one guy goes by five of our defenders and scores an uncontested lay-up, all five are coming out,” he said. “It was painful. I was biting my lip and biting my tongue.”

His mood was decidedly different during the second and third quarters. Trevor Watson scored underneath and Matt Holmes nailed a 3-pointer on back-to-back possessions to open the second, breaking a 18-all tie. While the Skiers’ defense held 4A Eagle Valley to just six points in the quarter, Aspen used depth on offense to expand its lead. Four different players scored during a four-minute stretch in which the Skiers outscored the Demons, 11-2. Roaring Fork transfer Walker Abrahamovich pulled down an offensive rebound and finished off the glass in the final minute to put Aspen ahead, 34-24, at the break. Holmes, the lone returning starter from last year’s team that finished fourth in 3A, had 11 points in the first 16 minutes.

“I’m trying to pick up [the offensive] part of my game a lot,” the junior guard said. “I’m also trying to give my teammates good looks. … We’re definitely more balanced than last year.”

The Skiers (2-0) continued to pull away in the third quarter, opening on a 10-2 run highlighted by an acrobatic move under the hoop and a long 3 from the top of the key from Abrahamovich. Holmes nailed a 3, then Fritz Gonzalez banked one in from long distance right before the buzzer to give Aspen the 50-30 advantage heading into the final quarter.

“We had 1 1/2 quarters of good play [Friday] and two good quarters of play tonight,” Ketchum said. “Midway through the season, we should be playing good basketball.”

The fourth quarter was a different story. The Skiers seemed poised to blow out Eagle Valley when Devin Kahn picked off a pass and scored in transition, then Fuller finished underneath to stretch the lead to 60-35 ” the largest of the game. Castillo made things interesting, however.

He scored the game’s next nine points, then found Trevor Grayson in the corner for the 3 to cut the lead to 13. Castillo nailed a high-arcing 3 of his own on the ensuing possession to trim the deficit to 10. He led all scorers with 20 points.

“I guess we just like to keep the crowd on their toes,” Holmes joked.

“To let a team that doesn’t score well and who isn’t strong offensively cut a 25-point lead to 10, is embarrassing. That’s what that is,” Ketchum said. “There was no help, no moving of the feet, no intensity. … They’re going to learn.”

The Aspen defense tightened in the final minute, forcing multiple errant Eagle Valley shots to secure the win. Holmes finished with a career-high 17 points and Nick Codd added eight.

Aspen overcame a double-digit second-half deficit to win Friday’s opener against the Classical Academy. After Saturday’s win, the Skiers finished 2-0 on the opening weekend.

That, Ketchum said, is the bottom line, especially after an offseason full of uncertainty.

“You can’t be too disappointed with that,” he added. “We’re not as bad as we could’ve been, and we’re not as good as we’re going to be.”

The Skiers had all the answers during Friday’s rout of Lake County.

One day later, they were stumped.

4A Eagle Valley frustrated Aspen with 1-3-1 full-court pressure, and held the Skiers to one field goal in the first quarter Saturday. Things would get no better for Aspen, as the Demons took a 13-point lead into halftime and cruised to the easy 64-30 victory.

“We need to do a better job taking care of the ball,” Skiers head coach Jeremy Haack said. “This is not a step back. This is something we’ll learn from.”

The Demons jumped out to an early 9-0 lead after Mikaela Nevin picked off a lazy pass and scored in transition, Hillary Schott scored underneath and from the corner and two others hit free throws. The Skiers had no answer for Schott and Kacey Bair in the paint; the duo combined for 27 points.

That early momentum carried into the second. Schott, Nevin and Sierra Pickslay fueled a 6-0 run to open the quarter, giving Eagle Valley and 18-4 advantage. Georgia Lipkin and Lindsey Anderson helped keep Aspen (1-1) alive, combining for eight consecutive points during one stretch to cut the lead to 22-14. Bair then went to work, burying a jumper and connecting on three free throws in the final 1:28 to give the Demons a 29-16 halftime advantage.

That lead ballooned to 18 after a third quarter in which an anemic Skiers offense could muster just six points. Aspen pulled no closer than 20 in the final quarter.

Anderson led the Skiers with 12 points, while Katy Evans chipped in with nine.

“We could’ve done a lot better, we just gave up too many easy points,” Haack said. “We’re going to put things together because that’s the kind of kids these girls are.”

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