Aspen boys win clash with Titans, sit alone atop 3A Western Slope
ASPEN Statement made.In a battle between unbeatens Thursday night, Aspen proved its fast start is hardly a fluke. Trevor Watson led a balanced scoring attack, erupting for 24 points, and the Skiers defense stifled Titans standout guard Eric Schmitz. Aspen led throughout and cruised to a 69-59 victory that has the defending 3A Western Slope champions all alone atop the conference standings.Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum never thought his team would open the season 7-0 but hell gladly take it.Our potential is better than I really anticipated, Ketchum said. This is something I never couldve imagined. We were solid all around.And showed little rust after a 19-day layoff. Five different players scored in the games first six minutes as the Skiers jumped out to a 16-5 lead. Watson keyed the run with a lay-up in transition and an offensive rebound and score off the glass.I was shocked, Ketchum said, and I knew it wouldnt last.How apropos. After Coal Ridge senior Adam Miller drained a 3-pointer from the corner with less than a minute, Ketchum ordered his players to hold for a final shot. Instead, guard Fritz Gonzalez took and missed an ill-advised shot, the Titans pulled down the rebound and DaLin Murphy beat the buzzer with a long 3, cutting the Skiers lead to five after eight minutes.Coal Ridge pulled to within one in the first minute of the second quarter after Rafael Fabela connected from long range on the first possession, then Schmitz went 1-for-2 from the free throw line. The two teams exchanged buckets, then Aspen strung together seven consecutive points to take a 29-23 lead. Titans senior Jonathan Roessler responded with a drive and bucket in the lane, then Schmitz hit a 3 and a free throw to cut his teams deficit to three with one minute remaining in the half.Then, Watson went to work. Despite being dwarfed by 6-foot-8 Coal Ridge center Alex Klein, Watson used his muscle to generate wide-open looks. He didnt miss, scoring three times in the final 60 seconds once on an acrobatic move in transition to stretch the lead back to nine at 37-28.I was worried coming in because I couldnt hit a shot in the last few practices, Watson said. I guess all I needed to do tonight was make lay-ups. Ive been in the post my whole life, and it doesnt matter how big the defenders are.While Watson continued to produce, Schmitz, who entered Thursdays tussle averaging more than 25 points per game in his first six, disappeared. The string-thin guard struggled to penetrate the Aspen zone and had multiple attempted drives swatted out of play. Consequently, he resorted to heaving up 3s from well behind the 3-point arc with little success.Schmitz finished with 16 points, seven of which came from the line.Our goal was to hold him to 15 so we were off by one, but I honestly thought that if we could hold him under 20 we would win, Ketchum said. Hes such a huge part of their offense.Meanwhile, the Aspen offense continued to roll in the second half. The Skiers opened the third quarter with a 13-4 run, one capped by lay-ups from Matt Holmes and Devin Kahn, to seemingly put the game out of reach. Watson scored twice in the final 1 minute 27 seconds of the third, and the Skiers headed to the final frame leading, 56-40.Coal Ridge made a last-ditch effort to climb back into the contest, opening the fourth with full-court pressure. The defense yielded three transition buckets in less than a minute during a one-minute stretch, then Andy Smedra hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to eight with less than six minutes remaining.Roaring Fork transfer Walker Abrahamovich answered with a strong move in the paint, then Andrew Papenfus finished on a drive to the hoop to restore order and push the lead to 13. The Titans could pull no closer than nine the rest of the way. Papenfus, making his first appearance of the season after being sidelined with a broken collarbone, finished with eight points. Abrahamovich and Holmes each chipped in with 13 for the Skiers, who are currently ranked seventh in the Rocky Mountain News latest poll, released Wednesday. Klein and Smedra combined for 19 points for the Titans, who are ninth in that poll.We were clicking out there, Watson said. We worked hard in practice and talked about what we need to do, and we came out and executed.Our toughest test will be Saturday. If we win, well probably justify that top 10 ranking.Aspen travels to Parachute on Saturday to tip off with Grand Valley. The Cardinals, widely regarded as a legitimate Slope title contender, return all five starters from last years 2A state semifinal firstname.lastname@example.org
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