Aspen boys shake off ﬁrst-quarter slump to win ninth straight
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
ASPEN – Austin Roark’s return from a week-long illness had an immediate impact Saturday as the senior forward scored in the first minute on a turnaround layup. But that was all the offense Aspen would get in the opening quarter.
Grand Valley would go on to score the next 14 points and shut out the Skiers offense in a quarter Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum described as one of his most frustrating instances as a coach.
“I don’t think I’ve been that disappointed, that mad or upset in a long time,” Ketchum said. “Exactly what we talked about and prepped for and discussed throughout our pregame, they did the exact opposite.”
Despite a 12-point deficit after the first quarter, Aspen closed the gap to 19-15 by halftime and then shook off its struggles in a huge way: In the third quarter, the Skiers outscored the Cardinals 21-5 on their way to their ninth straight win, 45-37. Aspen improved to 6-2 and 6-0 in the Western Slope 3A, while Grand Valley dropped to 8-4 and 4-2.
“Offensively, we shot very poorly and missed a lot around the rim. We were just in a funk,” Ketchum said. “We weren’t doing anything we wanted to do on both sides of the court. But to their credit, we made some adjustments and got motivated.”
Ketchum’s team received a spark in the second quarter, starting with Roark. Although he played just two minutes in the first three quarters, Roark made the most of them, finishing with 10 points. The senior the began second quarter with a layup and foul, and converted the three-point play. After a 3-pointer from Grand Valley’s Jacob White, the Skiers scored the next nine points, led by Trent Lichtenwalter’s five, to trim the lead 14-17.
“Roark is sick as a dog, but he just wanted to try it out,” Ketchum said. “He did a nice job with his energy level, which was so low. We just need him to get well so we can do better from the start.”
After Aspen’s slow start, senior Jake Nugent paced the Skiers with 13 points, and guard Quinn Morehead provided electric playmaking and finished with six points, including a 3-pointer to beat the third-quarter buzzer.
“It’s obvious these kids can turn it on when they want to, but they’re teenagers. Who knows what can motivate them,” Ketchum said. “With a quality team, it has to come from within, and they have to be self-motivated.”
After Aspen refocused and began guarding what Ketchum called some of the best 3-point shooters in Colorado, Grand Valley’s offense halted, scoring just 10 points in the second and third quarters combined. Trevor Smith led the Cardinals with 13 points, and White had 11.
Next up for Aspen is a 4A test against Palisade on Tuesday. The Bulldogs are 11-2 overall and on an 11-game winning streak.
“That’s the type of game that we need,” Ketchum said. “It kind of shows your character, so hopefully we’ll get a little bit more healthy and see what we can do against some bigger people.”
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