Aspen boys win fourth straight since holiday break
“Undefeated in 2003” – that’s the new battle cry of the Aspen High boys basketball team.
The team came out on top of two big rivals this weekend, surviving a bout with perennial powerhouse Eagle Valley as well as a tough trip to the Basalt High “Bighouse.”
The AHS boys “rivalry weekend” kicked off Friday night as the Skiers hosted Eagle Valley.
“This is a team we’ve always struggled against, one of the toughest teams we’ve played against,” AHS coach Steve Ketchum said.
A solid first half helped the Skiers to a 69-59 win, Ketchum said, but the coach also cited a change in attitude.
“One of the keys for us has really been the change in Nick Farrell,” Ketchum said of the point/shooting guard. “He had to get comfortable in his own skin and comfortable in his role on the team. Now, he’s happy and comfortable in his role and realizes that he doesn’t have to be a superstar. The pressure’s off and he’s responding great, playing the greatest defense I’ve ever seen him play.”
And now that the pressure’s off Farrell, a host of varsity boys are stepping up to take their places on the team, Ketchum said. In Friday night’s Eagle Valley game, senior Josh Lackey racked up a career-high 17 points, while senior Zac Paris came off the bench for two big 3-pointers that helped decide the game.
“Nobody feels like they have to carry the load anymore. Everybody knows they have to do their job,” Ketchum said. “I think everybody’s figured out what their role is.”
The Skiers shared the load again during Saturday’s faceoff in Basalt.
Basalt came out strong, winning the opening tip off and building a three-point lead in the game’s opening minutes. However, a quick 3-pointer by Farrell helped Aspen win, and retain, the advantage for the duration.
The Skiers earned a distinctive 32-26 lead at the end of the first half, an unusual move against Basalt, Ketchum said.
“Basalt leads most games at halftime, and we struggled a bit in the first half. Our offense wasn’t really clicking early against Basalt,” he said.
It had clicked by the third quarter, when Aspen expanded its lead to 50-34. Multiple trips to the foul line boosted AHS in the second half, ending in a 71-56 win.
“It was a big win for our kids. Any time you beat a big rival and a next door neighbor, it’s a big win,” Ketchum said.
Farrell led scoring for the Skiers Saturday with 18 points, “and about a dozen assists,” Ketchum said, followed by senior Phil Salazar with 16 points. A majority of the AHS roster also racked up a few baskets.
“Scoring was tremendously balanced – we had 11 kids in the scoring column against Basalt,” Ketchum said.
High scorers for Basalt included senior Kyle Kappeli with 16 points, senior Travis Shwan with 14 points and senior Ryan Thompson with 13 points.
The Skiers’ record improved to 7-3 overall and 4-1 in Class 3A Western Slope League play – including four wins since the New Year.
The loss was Basalt’s second of the weekend. The Longhorns also dropped a game at Cedaredge on Friday night 69-48. Basalt fell to 2-7 overall, 2-3 in league.
The winning weekend earned the Skiers a special treat – no Monday practice, for perhaps the first time in Ketchum’s five-year AHS coaching career.
“They earned it. I wanted to reward them and let them enjoy an extra day of fun,” Ketchum said.
Ella Johnson gave thought to the risk when she decided to close out her senior year at Glenwood Springs High School playing soccer and make a bid for another shot at the Class 4A state track meet podium finish.
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