Aspen boys dominate in district semis |

Aspen boys dominate in district semis

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

PALISADE, Colo. ” The Aspen boys basketball team looked very much like a No. 1 seed in Friday’s 3A Western Slope district semifinals.

Four players scored in double figures and another nearly recorded a double-double in the first half for the Skiers, who rebounded from a momentary lapse in the second quarter to rout Gunnison, 67-48, at Palisade High School.

Aspen picked up its 20th win of the season and secured its spot in today’s district title game. The Skiers, the reigning district champions and the state’s third-ranked team, will square off with Coal Ridge at 5:45 p.m. The Titans, the lone team to beat Aspen this season, outlasted Grand Valley in Friday’s other semifinal.

“It was good timing,” Skiers head coach Steve Ketchum said. “This is a huge win, and we played very well. … The kids were extremely focused. They were like, ‘We’re going to be in the championship. We’re not going to let this get away from us.'”

Aspen struggled against the Cowboys in two regular-season meetings. The Skiers escaped with a two-point overtime home victory in December, then won by nine in Gunnison on Jan. 30.

There was little drama Friday. Senior forward Trevor Watson scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half and reserve Zack Babich had seven points and seven rebounds in the first 16 minutes for Aspen, which jumped out to an early double-digit lead.

Gunnison provided a scare late in the second quarter, when they scored points off three consecutive Skiers turnovers in the final two minutes to trim the lead to six. But Aspen hit a few timely buckets in the final seconds to restore order.

“We made a few mistakes there, but we seemed to recover and get things back together,” Ketchum said.

The Skiers’ depth wore down the Cowboys during a lopsided second half. Guard Matthew Holmes scored 14 points, Andrew Papenfus added 11 and Walker Abrahamovich pitched in with 10 for the Skiers. Babich finished with eight.

“I think we’re hard to guard because so many score from so many places,” Ketchum said. “We handled the ball well, worked it around well, and played as a team. And defensively, we were tough again.”

Aspen has now won six straight since Feb. 7’s loss to Coal Ridge. In that contest, the Skiers were outscored, 24-1, in the second quarter.

Aspen will look for some payback today. Ketchum is hoping to provide a little extra motivation ” he reserved a conference room in the team hotel for this morning and was planning to show footage of that game to his players for the first time.

“If that doesn’t piss them off, I don’t know what will,” Ketchum joked. “We’ll have to bring it tomorrow ” it’s all or nothing. We’re four quarters away from hosting a regional championship at home in Aspen for the second straight year. Either that, or we lose and travel.

“We’re four quarters away. It’s time to take care of business.”

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