Aspen boys listen, heed captain’s advice |

Aspen boys listen, heed captain’s advice

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Leah Moriarty Aspen High School junior Clayton Crawford hits a put-back basket to help the Skiers beat Cedaredge, 66-38, before a large home crowd Thursday night. Crawford led all scorers with 20 points.

ASPEN – When Daniel Schwartz talks, the Aspen Skiers listen.

And they heard every word of Thursday night’s pregame speech from their senior captain.

The Aspen High School boys basketball team, heeding Schwartz’s edict to start fast, blitzed past Cedaredge 66-38 in the quarterfinals of the Western Slope League Tournament.

The Skiers (17-3) advance to the tournament semifinals and an 8:15 p.m. game Friday against No. 3 seed Moffat County at Palisade High School.

“I told them we had to pounce,” Schwartz said. “We had to step on them early and finish the job.”

How does 13-2 sound to open the game?

“We had to start fast. We tried to take control from the first quarter,” Schwartz said after the Skiers opened with a 26-10 lead entering the second quarter.

The early 13-2 run included a variety of fast-break baskets, like one from Trent Lichtenwalter and two from Clayton Crawford.

Lichtenwalter also drilled a 3-pointer in transition off a pass from Luke Rider.

Schwartz contributed a blocked shot that led to another Lichtenwalter layup.

The first-quarter ended on a buzzer-beating ESPN highlight 3-pointer by Aspen’s Evan Patzoldt from well beyond half-court.

“That was big because that came right after that kid (Cedaredge’s Reid Gates) dunked it. We needed to change the momentum after the dunk,” Schwartz said.

The Skiers, after a torrid first quarter, turned cold in the second.

Cedaredge responded with a 9-0 run to close a 21-point deficit to 12 late in the second quarter.

After a back-and-forth third quarter, the Skiers pulled away with the help of their tenacious, turnover-producing defense.

“Defense leads to offense,” said Schwartz, the son of Rick and Zibby Schwartz.

“We stepped it up on defense. That led to us running. If we play well on defense, that leads to positive things on offense,” the Aspen senior said.

No argument from Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum.

“I thought our defensive effort was really, really good (Thursday night),” Ketchum said after the Skiers forced 17 turnovers. “Your defense has to keep you there when you are not having a great shooting night.”

The Skiers pushed the ball to the rim early, he said.

“Then we started jacking up a bunch of 3s and missing. We struggled there for a while,” Ketchum said.

Crediting Cedaredge (7-13) with making a comeback, Ketchum also credited the Aspen bench with a strong game.

“Wow, I was so proud of our bench (Thursday). They not only maintained the lead against their starters, but our bench guys increased our lead at the end,” Ketchum said of key plays from Levi Wright, Josh Baker, Dominick Alcorta, Taylor Henschke and JJ Ready.

Crawford led all scorers with 20 point. Lichtenwalter added 13 points and seven rebounds.

Rider scored seven for Aspen. Patzoldt and Schwartz added six each.

Trent Walker led Cedaredge with 13 points, including three 3-pointers.

Gates added 12 points, including the driving dunk.

“What a great start we had,” Ketchum said. “That was one of the best starts we’ve had all year.”

He and Schwartz will be encouraging a similar fast start Friday when the Skiers take on Moffat County in an 8:15 p.m. tipoff at Palisade.

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