Aspen boys basketball the No. 3 seed, to host Denver West in first round of state
Skiers could host again in second round on Saturday
The Aspen High School boys basketball team’s path to a championship became quite straightforward on Sunday when the Colorado High School Activities Association released the Class 3A state tournament bracket.
The undefeated Skiers (22-0) are the No. 3 seed in the 32-team field and will host No. 30 Denver West (15-4) in the first round on Friday night inside the AHS gymnasium.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Should Aspen advance past the Cowboys, it would host the winner of No. 14 Englewood and No. 19 Kent Denver in the Sweet 16 round on Saturday night.
Beginning with the March 10 quarterfinal round, all games will be played inside the University of Denver’s Hamilton Gymnasium. The semifinals are March 11 and championship game is March 12.
Aspen is one of three Western Slope League teams to make the tournament. Delta, which Aspen beat in the district championship game on Saturday, 59-33, is the No. 32 seed and will face No. 1 seed St. Mary’s in the first round on Friday. Moffat County is the No. 29 seed and will play at No. 4 Colorado Academy in the first round.
Neither the Basalt boys nor girls basketball teams made the state tournament, each finishing the season with a 7-13 overall record. Grand Valley (No. 4), Delta (No. 10), Coal Ridge (No. 15), Moffat County (No. 22) and North Fork (No. 24) all made the girls’ field out of the 3A WSL.
The AHS boys are seeking their first state championship in basketball after having come close on numerous occasions, most recently under former coach Steve Ketchum, who led the program for 16 years before stepping away after the 2013-14 season. Aspen’s first-year head coach, Cory Parker, was a 2008 AHS graduate and star player who guided the team to the state semifinals his senior season.
The 22 wins by the Skiers this season are the most since the famed 2009-10 season, in which they finished 26-1 overall, the only loss coming to Faith Christian in the state championship game, 57-47.
Aspen’s best win this season came Feb. 10 at Highland, a surprising 77-38 rout in a matchup of top-10 teams. Highland (19-4) is the 3A tournament’s No. 9 seed and will host No. 24 DSST: Green Valley Ranch in the first round.
With St. Mary’s holding down the top seed and entering as the favorite to win it all in that regard, Sterling is the No. 2 seed and could potentially see Aspen in the semifinal round. Colorado Academy is the No. 4 seed, followed by No. 5 Centauri, No. 6 Resurrection Christian, No. 7 Manual and No. 8 Eagle Ridge Academy.
Aspen’s possible quarterfinal opponent would come from the regional pod that features first-round games of Resurrection Christian vs. No. 27 Fort Lupton, and No. 11 Middle Park vs. No. 22 Manitou Springs.
Last winter, which saw a condensed 24-team state bracket because of the shortened COVID-19 season, it was Lutheran beating St. Mary’s in the state championship game. Lutheran is only seeded No. 16 this year and faces No. 17 University in the first round, with a likely matchup against No. 1 St. Mary’s coming in the second round for the winner, barring a Delta upset.
As the No. 6 seed in last year’s tournament, Aspen beat No. 11 Faith Christian, 61-52 in overtime, in the Sweet 16 round — AHS had a first-round bye — before losing to No. 3 Sterling in the quarterfinals, 54-52.
AHS hockey faces Cheyenne Mountain in Monday quarterfinals
The Aspen High School hockey team is scheduled to play Monday afternoon in the quarterfinal round of the Class 4A state tournament against top-seeded Cheyenne Mountain.
The puck drops at 2:45 p.m. inside the Sertich Ice Center in Colorado Springs.
As the No. 8 seed, the Skiers (now 8-10-1 overall) beat No. 9 seed Liberty in the first round on Thursday, winning 4-2 at Lewis Ice Arena. Cheyenne Mountain (17-2) had a first-round bye.
The two teams met in the first game of Aspen’s regular season on Dec. 6, with Cheyenne Mountain holding on for a 4-3 win in Colorado Springs. In that game, also played at the Sertich Ice Center, it was scoreless after a period before the Hawks’ Wyatt Furda scored twice in the second period and once more early in the third period to make it 3-0 for the home team.
Aspen did rally, a Ryan Rigney goal making it 3-1 before Cheyenne Mountain’s Drew Elwell answered to make it 4-1. But late goals by Aspen’s Joseph Clark and Carson Miller made it 4-3 with a little more than two minutes to play before time simply ran out on the Skiers.
Cheyenne Mountain outshot Aspen in that game by a substantial margin, 63-22. That was the Hawks’ third game of the season, meaning they came in with substantially more ice time than the Skiers up to that point.
The winner of Monday’s quarterfinal game will advance to play No. 4 seed Steamboat Springs in the semifinals on Thursday at Magness Arena in Denver. The state championship game is March 8 at Ball Arena.
The long drives to Denver to play competitive club softball and fine-tune her skills during the offseason are paying off for Glenwood Springs High School senior Kiera Larson.