Aspen boys basketball packs for Palisade
The Aspen Times
The Skiers are headed to Palisade with a harvest in mind.
The Aspen High School boys basketball team advanced to the semifinals of the Western Slope District Tournament with a start-to-finish 51-28 victory over visiting Basalt on Tuesday night.
The victory at the AHS gym will send the 17-3 Skiers to Palisade and a date in the tournament semifinals at 4:45 p.m. Friday against Coal Ridge (11-9), a 43-41 winner over Roaring Fork on Tuesday night.
The Skiers’ frenetic trapping defense boosted the Aspen boys to a fast start Tuesday, holding the Longhorns to 11 first-half points — just four in the second quarter.
“We’re always working on aggression (on defense),” Aspen senior Clayton Crawford said. “If you play passive out there, any team can beat you.”
Crawford, along with his role in the pressure half-court defense, grabbed eight rebounds in the first half when the Skiers built their 27-11 lead. He finished with a game-high 11 rebounds.
He said the defensive intensity was the key as the Skiers beat the Longhorns for the third time this season.
“Defense .. is our backbone. We try to get turnovers and go score off that,” said Crawford, who also scored 12 points in Tuesday’s win.
The defense and the quick-strike offense combined in the third quarter for the Skiers, who put 17 points on the scoreboard — 11 from junior Evan Patzoldt.
“The team was getting me the ball at the right time … open shots,” Patzoldt said. “You have to taken them.”
And he took his shots in the third quarter, making all of them except a lone free throw.
He scored Aspen’s first seven points in the period, eventually canning four field goals and a 3-pointer.
Patzoldt, who attended Basalt before transferring to Aspen after middle school, said it was fun to play against the familiar Longhorns.
“It’s a great time,” said Patzoldt, the son of Sandy and Lynn Patzoldt. “I know them all. It’s like back in the day when we were in middle school together.”
But Patzoldt, who finished with a game-high 22 points, said Aspen’s trademark defense was the difference again.
“Defense is always the No. 1 priority for Aspen basketball,” he said. “We practice it every day; we practice it all preseason; we practice it in the offseason. Without defense, there’s no chance to get a win.”
Aspen also collected six points from Levi Wright, who also had seven steals against the Longhorns.
Trent Lichtenwalter added six points. Dominick Alcorta had seven rebounds for the Skiers.
The Skiers played their full roster, with reserves handling the bulk of the fourth quarter.
“I was glad they were able to get some minutes,” Ketchum said, adding that senior Ryan Scheidt made the most of his minutes, scoring his first varsity field goal.
Freshman leads longhorns
Basalt freshman Michael Glen, who drew a starting assignment in the tournament game, led the Longhorns with 10 points, including nine in the second half.
Glen also was 2 for 2 at the foul line.
Noah Schoenberger had six points and seven rebounds for Basalt. James Coombs added four points for the Longhorns, who reached the tournament quarterfinals with a big 44-25 win over Olathe in Monday night’s pigtail game in Basalt.
In spite of Tuesday’s loss, the Longhorns (4-17) are still alive in the consolation bracket of the Western Slope District Tournament.
The Basalt boys will play Thursday at Roaring Fork — the loser of a first-round matchup at Coal Ridge.
The Longhorns have won three of their last four games under first-year head coach Danny Martinez.
“Our defense was solid,” Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum said after the win over Basalt. “They were really solid; created a lot of turnovers.”
He said he was pleased to see Patzoldt break out on offense against his former mates.
“Even showed up and he lit them up in the second half,” Ketchum said. “I’m happy for him.”
Focus on Friday
He said the Skiers now need to focus on Palisade and Friday afternoon’s tournament semifinal.
The tournament championship for the boys is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Saturday, also at the Palisade High School gym.
“This is just the first step,” said Aspen’s Crawford, the son of Randy and Abigail Crawford. “We’ve got a long way to go.”
Starting with a trip to Palisade, where the Skiers hope to harvest a tournament championship.
In other boys tournament games scheduled for Tuesday night, Moffat County improved to 16-4 with a 97-49 win over Cedaredge (7-13), and Grand Valley improved to 13-7 with a 61-47 win over the Gunnison boys (6-13).
While Aspen heads to Palisade for the semifinals Friday, Basalt will head to Carbondale on Thursday to take on Roaring Fork in a consolation semifinal.
Because the league will send five teams to the Class 3A Regionals, the Western Slope District Tournament will play out to fifth place, with the consolation championship game set for 10:45 a.m. Saturday at Palisade High School.
In the girls division of the Western Slope District Tournament, the Aspen Skiers traveled to Parachute to take on Grand Valley in Tuesday’s quarterfinal round. The Skiers were coming off a 28-27 win over Basalt on Monday night.
The homestanding Cardinals (16-4) defeated the Aspen girls 63-25.
Grand Valley will advance to the tournament semifinals in Palisade on Friday.
The Aspen girls (2-18), meanwhile, will play in the consolation bracket. They will play at Coal Ridge in New Castle. Coal Ridge (12-8) lost at Moffat County 52-35 on Tuesday night.
The Moffat County girls (14-6) will take on Grand Valley on Friday in Palisade.
Gunnison’s girls pulled an upset at Cedaredge, knocking off the Bruins 42-39. Gunnison (8-12) will move into the tournament semifinals against Olathe (16-4). Olathe topped Roaring Fork’s girls 54-41.
The Roaring Fork girls (4-16) will play at Cedaredge (14-6) in a Thursday consolation game.
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