Aspen boys basketball season ends with first-round playoff loss to DSST: Byers
For the most part, the Aspen High School boys basketball team did exactly what it wanted to do against DSST: Byers in Friday’s playoff opener. However, the Falcons still made more buckets when it mattered and held off the Skiers for a 51-36 win in Denver.
“Down the stretch they stuck to the game plan. We wanted to try and get some of those guys in foul trouble and play physical and get to the free-throw line,” AHS coach Alex Schrempf said. “A lot of unforced errors. We played rushed and allowed them to pressure us and change the way we were just trying to handle the ball.”
Aspen, seeded No. 27 in the Class 3A state tournament, was playing in the 32-team postseason tournament for the first time since 2014 under former coach Steve Ketchum. AHS got there via a surprise run to the district championship game last week.
Byers, the tournament’s No. 6 seed and regional host for the first two rounds, improved to 21-2 overall and will play No. 11 Alamosa on Saturday afternoon in the Round of 16. Alamosa beat No. 22 Lamar in the late game Friday, 59-46.
Aspen’s only lead against Byers came at 2-0 on a Jon Haisfield basket. This came nearly midway through the first quarter as neither team could find any offense for roughly the first four minutes. The Falcons took a 5-2 lead with just over two minutes to play in the quarter off a 3-pointer by star senior Kyrie Thomas and pulled away for a 13-4 advantage heading into the second quarter.
“They were resilient. They’ve been doing what they’ve been doing all season,” Schrempf said of his group. “They kept fighting and gave it their all. It was a fun battle. I wish we could have done a little bit more with it, but they played an overall really good game.”
The Skiers answered back, outscoring the Falcons 10-9 in the second quarter to trail 22-14 at halftime. Thomas, who averages roughly 24 points per game to lead the Confluence League, scored 11 points in the first half alone but did not play in the second half.
Even without Thomas and mounting foul trouble, Byers didn’t let Aspen get too close in the second half. Each team scored nine points in the third quarter and it was 31-23 going into the fourth, where the Falcons broke it open down the stretch, outscoring AHS 20-13 over the final eight minutes.
“Down the stretch, ultimately they got the ball in a few more times than we were able to,” Schrempf said. “I know it was close, neck-and-neck, until the last couple of minutes.”
Senior big man Elijah Thatch led Byers in scoring with 17 points, 11 of those coming in the fourth quarter. Sophomore guard Alphonso Flores, who came in averaging less than three points per game, had a career night with 13 points.
Senior Jonathan Woodrow, who did not start because of illness, came off the bench to lead the Skiers with 11 points. He was the only AHS player in double figures.
Aspen finishes the season 14-10 overall, the most wins since going 19-5 in 2013-14. It was the first time AHS reached double figures in wins in four years under Schrempf. With a core nucleus of underclassmen to build around, the coach is confident the team will make it back to the state tournament sooner rather than later.
“Testament to these guys. The seniors, what this group has done over the last four years with us, they made all of this possible,” Schrempf said. “They are going to be remembered for a long time because of what they were able to do. They started this out and this is not going to be our last time winning, this is not going to be our last time in this position. For our younger guys it’s really all about making sure they take the lessons from it and remember what it feels like, remember the hunger they feel wishing they could have won it.”
Also competing Friday, the Roaring Fork High School girls basketball team had its season come to an end, losing as the No. 20 seed to No. 13 seed Platte Valley, 25-20. That game was played at Delta, seeded No. 4, which cruised to a 68-30 win over No. 29 Buena Vista in its first-round game.
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Laimis Grybe finds relaxation through the basketball court. From his young days in Lithuania to his new role as head coach of Rifle High School’s boys basketball team, it’s been the place Grybe has felt he can best be himself.