Aspen boys hoops team remains unbeaten |

Aspen boys hoops team remains unbeaten

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

PARACHUTE, Colo. ” The Aspen boys basketball team is starting to make even its toughest critic a believer.

After the Skiers’ latest feat ” they convincingly dispatched 3A Western Slope title contender Grand Valley on the road Saturday ” head coach Steve Ketchum could do nothing but shake his head. His squad, which topped previously unbeaten Coal Ridge on Thursday, is 8-0 and has a stranglehold on first place in the league.

“It’s exciting. We’ve had some parents shocked here,” Ketchum said. “Some of them don’t have any kids playing on this team, but they told me this as exciting as last year. That’s amazing, considering what we lost.

“I’m like a parent. I see all the kids’ flaws. I see what they do poorly and badly, and sometimes that glares at me and gets me so worried I don’t concentrate on all the good stuff. These kids are obviously doing a lot of good things.”

Saturday’s 55-41 victory is just the latest example. After a scoreless first four minutes, the Skiers strung together 10 consecutive points and led, 15-2, after the first eight minutes. The dominance continued in the second quarter as a balanced offensive attack helped Aspen take a 27-10 halftime lead.

The defense was the real story, Ketchum said. The Skiers pressured the Cardinals’ ballhandlers and contested nearly every shot.

“We just played the best defense I’ve seen all year, and for a long time,” Ketchum added. “It was incredible.”

Aspen led, 43-18, heading into the fourth quarter and were able to withstand a late Grand Valley rally.

Two nights after torching Coal Ridge for 24 points, Trevor Watson scored 14 points, including three clutch 3-pointers. Teammate Matt Holmes added 14 and Andrew Papenfus 12 in just his second game of the season. Papenfus missed six weeks and six games after breaking his collarbone in a fall during practice.

That balance, coupled with the defensive effort, helped the Skiers overcome standout Walker Abrahamovich’s off shooting night. The Roaring Fork transfer hit a basket in the first quarter, one in the fourth and finished with five points.

“This was a legitimate big win for us,” Ketchum said. “I guess we’re better than I thought we were.”

Aspen will put its unbeaten streak on the line this weak against two Roaring Fork Vallel rivals. The Skiers head to Carbondale on Tuesday night to face the Rams in what will be Abrahamovich’s homecoming. Friday, they host Basalt.

“Walker is wondering if he’s going to get booed,” Ketchum joked. “It’s going to be a big week. … You can throw out the books, they mean nothing. The better team, it doesn’t matter who it is. The kids play on emotion because they know each other so well and always get after it. I’m expecting nothing different.”

A first league win was within reach, but the Aspen girls basketball team could not hang on.

The Skiers rallied from 10 points down in the first quarter to tie Grand Valley at halftime. They trailed by just one midway through the third, but their lack of depth and poor ballhandling cost them down the stretch in a 45-35 loss.

“We’re getting better controlling the ball, but there’s still too many turnovers,” head coach Jeremy Haack said. “The girls are tired of hearing this, but I told them again that they’re so close.”

Despite missing their two starting guards for much of the game ” Georgia Lipkin to an ankle injury and Rebecca Dolores to the flu ” the Skiers kept it close. At least until the waning minutes of the third, when the Cardinals shook loose in transition to score multiple easy buckets and jump out to an eight-point lead after 24 minutes.

Aspen (2-6 overall, 0-4 3A Western Slope) didn’t help its cause, committing 35 turnovers. The Skiers have turned the ball over 65 times in their last two games, both double-digit losses.

Lindsey Anderson finished with 10 points and Kylie Westerlind had nine for Aspen, which travels to Carbondale on Tuesday to take on Roaring Fork. The Skiers will be shorthanded, as Lipkin is expected to miss at least the next two weeks.

“Everybody else stepped up, and they’re going to have to continue to do that,” Haack said. “Fortunately, we have a good group of girls who are willing to stick together and fight through this difficult stretch.”

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