Aspen boys stand tall against Pirates |

Aspen boys stand tall against Pirates

Jon MaletzThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Aspen boys basketball coach Steve Ketchums heart was pounding and he couldnt stop pacing during the waning minutes of Dec. 20s game against Olathe. Friday, when the two teams met for a second time, all tension vanished mere minutes after the opening tip. As his Skiers padded its lead in the fourth quarter, Ketchum leaned back in his chair and even cracked a few smiles as he rested his arms on the backs of two starters sitting on his right and left.In its final tune-up before todays battle with Coal Ridge a matchup of the 3A Western Slopes top two programs Aspen was sharp. It closed the first quarter on a 14-1 run and jumped out to a 35-19 lead at the break. Four players scored in double figures, and the Skiers cruised to an 80-48 victory, pushing their record to 14-0 and 11-0 in league play.Last time against them, we didnt play our top game. We had that on our minds, junior guard Matthew Holmes said. We decided to put them away early this time.Mission accomplished. The Skiers, who clung to a two-point fourth-quarter lead before pulling away late the last time they squared off with the Pirates, were never challenged Friday.After Chris Brummitt shook free and scored underneath to give the Pirates their only lead of the game at 4-3, Aspen senior Trevor Watson answered off the glass on the ensuing possession, sparking a 18-1 run that extended into the early minutes of the second. Watson scored six more points during the streak as the Skiers, ranked third in the Rocky Mountain News latest 3A hoops poll, dominated the paint and controlled the tempo. Watson finished with a team- and game-high 17 points, and Walker Abrahamovich added 10.Holmes went to work in the second, nailing a jumper, then picking off a lazy pass and scoring in transition in the opening minute to stretch the lead to 21-5. After Olathe center Levi Webber scored, Holmes nailed a long 3-pointer from the wing. He scored nine points in the quarter and finished with 16.Were all out there having a lot of fun right now, Holmes said.That fun continued in a third quarter in which Aspen led by as many as 27. While Holmes and other starters watched from the bench for long stretches, the Skiers second unit continued to push the pace and frustrate the Pirates defense. The starters played solid and the bench played really, really well, Ketchum said. Usually when we go to the bench when youre up 20, it goes down to 12, but not only did they hold their own but at times they played better than the starters and even increased the lead. Thats a nice luxury to have.Junior guard Devin Kahn finished with a career-high 13 points off the bench. He nailed three consecutive free throws after being knocked down on an attempted 3 in the final minute of the third, then scored eight points in the final eight minutes. Six came on three consecutive possessions when he scored in transition and nailed two jumpers in the lane. Reserves Anderson Cole and Nicky Fuller combined for 15 points. But their biggest contribution? They allowed Ketchum to play his starters sparingly.Coal Ridge was down in Gunnison tonight and you know that was a tough game, so hopefully [the rest] works in our favor, Ketchum said.Our bench has been good all year, and it was fun to watch them perform so well, Holmes added. It takes a lot of stress off of the starters. [Getting to rest] saves your legs for that fourth quarter [today].Aspen likely will need that energy late against a Titans squad that has won six of seven since Jan. 8s 10-point loss to the Skiers, including Fridays 63-56 win over Gunnison. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. in New Castle. Coal Ridge is scary, Ketchum said. Its going to take our best effort to beat

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