Aspen boys basketball pulls away from Resurrection Christian, semifinals next
Skiers will play No. 2 Sterling on Friday night in Denver
Cory Parker wanted the rematch and that’s exactly what he’ll get.
The first-year Aspen High School boys basketball head coach was an assistant under Alex Schrempf when the team bowed out of the Class 3A state tournament a year ago to Sterling in the quarterfinals, losing 54-52, and that’s a loss the Skiers will have a chance to avenge come Friday night.
“I was excited. I wanted to play Sterling again. I wanted to have that matchup again,” Parker told The Aspen Times on Thursday evening. “I know our guys are definitely excited to get that bad taste out of their mouth from last year with that tough loss. But we are a completely different team. We are a completely different team than we were last year, and in a great way. We’ll be ready. We’ll definitely be ready.”
No. 3 seed Aspen will see No. 2 seed Sterling after it advanced past No. 6 seed Resurrection Christian in the 3A quarterfinals, winning 52-35 on Thursday morning inside Hamilton Gymnasium on the University of Denver campus.
Sterling got by No. 7 Manual on Thursday afternoon, winning 63-56 to advance.
The teams will play at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Denver for a spot in Saturday’s 6 p.m. championship game. No. 1 seed St. Mary’s, which beat No. 8 Eagle Ridge Academy in Thursday’s quarterfinals, 91-68, is the odds-on favorite to be half the championship twosome.
“They were stoked just to get that win under their belt and be able to get some eyes on some of these other teams,” Parker said of Aspen’s vibe after Thursday’s win. “It gives us some confidence in seeing things we can attack against these other teams and just get mentally prepared with some of the matchups that we’ll see.”
Thursday’s 3A opener against Resurrection Christian, which finished just before noon, was a defensive slugfest early, with AHS taking a 9-7 lead into the second quarter. Late in the half is when the Skiers started to pull away, a quick five-point spurt from senior Ben Godomsky suddenly putting Aspen up seven and paving the way for a 25-16 halftime lead over the Cougars.
Resurrection Christian’s downfall really came in the third quarter, when it was held to only two points. The Cougars finally found some offensive rhythm in the fourth quarter, with back-to-back 3-pointers early on pulling them to within 34-24. But a quick 6-0 answer by the Skiers, including back-to-back buckets by senior Porter Lee, put to rest any comeback talk.
Braden Korpela led AHS with 16 points, while his brother Shae Korpela had 15 and Lee had 10.
“The guys played well. They showed up ready to fight, ready to scrap. It was great,” Parker said. “We didn’t get some shots falling early, missed a lot of great looks close to the basket early, and I think that kind of got us a little frustrated. But I do believe we started with much more energy, a little better focus, for sure, than we have in the past. So that’s a good step forward.”
Resurrection Christian finished the season 19-6 overall. With only one senior in the starting lineup and a freshman as their star player, the Cougars will likely be a championship factor for the next few seasons.
Aspen is seeking its first state championship in boys basketball. AHS hasn’t been this deep into the state tournament since the 2009-10 team reached 26-0 before losing to Faith Christian in the championship game.
The close loss to Sterling in last year’s quarterfinal ended up being the final game with Schrempf as Aspen’s head coach. Despite now living back in Seattle, where he grew up, Schrempf made a point to be with the team for their championship run and was in Denver for Thursday’s quarterfinal game.
“You see it in the weather here in Denver. They brought the mountains to the Front Range. There are a lot of things working in their favor right now,” Schrempf told local radio announcer Jim Williams on-air after the game. “These kids work so hard and the culture they have built around their program together is the reason they are where they are right now. Any team that I’ve seen that makes it to this stage, the one that has the most togetherness, that has the most time in, is the one that tends to make it all the way to Saturday. So I’m very optimistic.”
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