Aspen defense a nightmare for Rams |

Aspen defense a nightmare for Rams

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” After Monday’s 3A Western Slope district tournament play-in game victory, Roaring Fork basketball player Ryan Weimer brazenly told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, “We really want Aspen. We’re excited for that.”

Weimer got his wish Tuesday.

It turned out to be a nightmare.

Guard Matthew Holmes led the way with 16 points ” all in the first half ” and the two-time defending regular-season conference champion Skiers came to play on defense, holding the Rams to seven or fewer points in each of the final three quarters. Aspen cruised to a 49-32 victory, advancing to Friday night’s district semifinals at Palisade High School.

“The kids played like they should tonight,” said Aspen coach Steve Ketchum, whose team struggled in a 49-41 win over Roaring Fork on Friday. “We created the turnovers we needed to get to create some easy baskets. … I think we put the heat on.”

Holmes provided that heat early. He scored on an uncontested drive to the basket one minute into the first quarter, and later hit the first of his three 3-pointers in the first quarter. The latter gave the Skiers (19-1) a 15-8 advantage.

The Rams responded in the quarter’s final minute. Arick Zeigel and Dalton Handy hit back-to-back shots from long range to cut Aspen’s lead to two heading to the second.

Roaring Fork went cold from there, however, failing to hit a field goal in the next six-plus minutes. During that drought, the Skiers went on an 11-2 run.

After Walker Abrahamovich hit a free throw to open the quarter, Holmes drove past two defenders for a lay-up and nailed another 3. He scored 16 of Aspen’s first 22 points.

“I kind of feel like I had to give a little bit more at the offensive end,” Holmes said. “[On Friday], we came out really slow. We played a lot better this time.”

Andrew Papenfus and Abrahamovich scored in the paint in the final two minutes to give the Skiers a 31-20 halftime lead. The duo effectively put the game out of reach in the third quarter’s first five minutes.

Papenfus took a defender off the dribble and scored on the first possession of the second half, then converted in transition after Aspen’s full-court pressure produced a Rams turnover. One minute later, Abrahamovich pushed the lead to 17 with a short runner in the paint.

While Aspen lacked its usual balance on offense, Holmes and Papenfus, who added 12, nearly outscored the Rams by themselves.

“They did a great job on our bigs,” Ketchum said, “but our guard play was outstanding and made up for it.”

As did stingy defense. The Skiers held Roaring Fork to just seven points in the third quarter and 12 in the second half, quelling any chance of a Rams comeback.

As a result, Aspen’s bid for consecutive district crowns continues. The Skiers are slated to play either Gunnison or Hotchkiss, who also squared off Tuesday. The score was not reported by press time.

“I’m very pleased. We got out of them exactly what we needed,” Ketchum said. “Now, the stakes rise.”

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