Aspen boys clinch third consecutive district hoops crown |

Aspen boys clinch third consecutive district hoops crown

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jim Ryan Special to The Aspen TimesAspen's Nick Codd battles Hotchkiss' Nick Codd for a loose ball Saturday at Palisade High School.

PALISADE – Aspen left no doubt.

They had their slip-up earlier this week, but, in Saturday’s district final against Hotchkiss at Palisade High School, the Skiers looked every bit like a state title contender. Andrew Papenfus led a balanced attack with 22 points as top-seeded Aspen rolled to a 67-46 win – securing a third consecutive district crown and improving to 22-0.

The Skiers are now two wins from a return trip to Fort Collins and the Great Eight. Aspen will host a four-team regional next weekend. Pairings will be released Sunday afternoon.

The Skiers have never lost a home regional in five previous appearances under head coach Steve Ketchum.

“There’s really no question. They really are the dominant team in the league,” the coach added. “They have been for the last three years, but this year they really separated themselves from the pack.

“We’re 22-0. I don’t think I have to say any more.”

Aspen struggled at the outset in Wednesday’s district opener against Coal Ridge, then again Friday night versus Grand Valley. There was little drama this time around, as the Skiers controlled the game throughout.

“The kids came out playing with confidence and at a much higher level than they did the last two or three games,” Ketchum said. “The team was really, really balanced. We had good ball movement, good inside-outside, great passing and very few turnovers. … And the defense kicked butt.”

The Skiers led by 12 at the break, and by 30 during one stretch during the second half, Ketchum said.

Eleven players saw playing time for Aspen, which proved Feb. 13’s 36-point rout of second-seeded Hotchkiss (18-4) was no fluke.

“We took care of business – it wasn’t like they were nervous or tight,” Ketchum said. “We’re getting excited.”

With good reason. The Skiers will return home, a place where they have not lost in three seasons, for regional play.

The main goal is now within reach.

“We don’t want this to be the end all. We don’t want to be the best team not to make it to the [Great Eight],” the coach said. “We have unfinished business left over from the last few years. We’re chasing the golden ball. It all starts Friday in Aspen.”

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