Aspen boys drop Pirates, move to 6-0 |

Aspen boys drop Pirates, move to 6-0

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

OLATHE, Colo. ” Christmas came early for Aspen’s boys basketball team Saturday in Olathe.

The Skiers overcame lackluster play against the Pirates, pulling away late for a 56-45 victory. They head into the holiday break at 6-0 ” the best mark in recent history.

“If you would’ve told me we’d be 6-0, I would have laughed at you and said ‘Are you kidding me?'” Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum said. “I’m happy for the kids because they worked hard to get here. … We pulled another out of the fire today.”

One night after outlasting Gunnison in overtime after some dramatic late-game heroics, winless Olathe gave the Skiers “everything we could handle, and more,” Ketchum said.

Aspen jumped out to an 8-0 lead and had a comfortable 16-9 lead after the first eight minutes. Nothing was comfortable during the next two quarters, however, as the Skiers went cold from the field and from the free throw line. As a result, they scored just 39 points through three quarters and led by just three heading into the final frame.

“This weekend, we really struggled on the offensive end,” Ketchum said. “We do it in spurts where we have some great play. Then we have stretches where it’s not pretty at all. We can’t score and we make some bad decisions.”

The Skiers picked up their play during the fourth quarter, outscoring the Pirates, 17-9, to pull away. Senior Trevor Watson, who scored a late bucket with five seconds to play Friday to tie the game and force overtime, followed up a 17-point performance with a team-high 16 on Saturday. He scored 10 points in the fourth.

Matt Holmes and Nick Codd chipped in with 12 points each.

“I’m proud because the kids are giving a a really good effort,” Ketchum said. “The players and the coaching staff knows we’re making mistakes, but that’s going to happen. You make mistakes when you’re playing live, but you can tolerate that when the defensive effort is great overall. That’s allowed us in close games and games when we’re behind to get over that hump.”

That next hump comes after New Year’s. Aspen returns to the court Jan. 8 against Coal Ridge, then visits Grand Valley two days later. The Titans and Cardinals are popular picks to win the 3A Western Slope.

We’ll enjoy this while it lasts,” Ketchum joked. “Those two teams will be better than anyone we’ve seen so far. … We definitely aren’t last year’s team. We have a lot of things to work on.”

Aspen’s defense was stout. Its offense was anemic.

One day after suffering a 25-point loss to Gunnison at home, the Skiers girls basketball team put up a fight at Olathe. Its defense held the Pirates to 30 points, but its offense could do little to close the gap late. While junior Lindsey Anderson scored 11 points, the rest of the Aspen lineup scored just nine in a 10-point loss ” the Skiers’ third straight to close out the calendar year.

“It was our best defensive effort of the season,” Aspen head coach Jeremy Haack said. “We zoned them and created a lot of turnovers. Morgan Kimmel caused a whole lot of trouble at the top of the zone.

“Olathe is a good team. They’re not undefeated in the conference for nothing. … You’d think holding a team to 30 points would be enough to win.”

It wasn’t. Guard Georgia Lipkin nailed a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded at the end of the third quarter, cutting the Skiers’ deficit to six. They were within six again with three minutes to play, but could pull no closer.

Aspen (2-4 overall, 0-3 3A Western Slope) struggled all afternoon to combat the Pirates’ full-court pressure. It committed 18 turnovers.

“We turned the ball over way too much,” Haack said. “And we missed a lot of opportunities under the basket. … Obviously [the offense] is a concern, but it’s every coach’s concern.”

The Skiers don’t take the court again until Jan. 8, when they host Coal Ridge. Haack said his team is looking forward to the break.

“We told the girls to take the next two weeks to clear their heads and get away from basketball for a while,” he added. “We’re 2-4, it’s not the end of the world. To finish where we want to finish at the end of the season, we obviously have to get better offensively. … The fun thing about my job is that these girls work so hard and they want to do so well. They’re willing to listen and do the little things to get better.”

Murphy Fyrwald scored twice ” once in overtime ” to lift the Skiers to victory over Peak to Peak on Dec. 12 at Lewis Ice Arena. Eight days later, the Pumas returned the favor.

Billy Ross and Buster Hebda each found the net twice for Peak to Peak, which scored two goals in the opening period and three more in the final 15 minutes. It cruised to a 5-2 victory.

The loss dropped Aspen to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the 5A Foothills Conference heading into the holiday break. The Skiers were outscored, 11-3, during their two-game road trip to the Front Range. Ralston Valley, ranked fourth in the Rockey Mountain News’ latest poll, routed Aspen, 6-1, on Friday in Golden.

The Skiers next drop the puck Jan. 9 when they host Cheyenne Mountain. Aspen is 24-5-1 in games after New Year’s in the last two seasons. It will need similar success if it is to work its way back into the 5A playoff picture.

Skiers head coach Al Butler did not return calls seeking comment Saturday.

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