Aspen defense stifles Saints |

Aspen defense stifles Saints

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

ASPEN ” On a night when its offense was off the mark, Aspen’s defense couldn’t miss ” especially down the stretch.

The Skiers girls basketball team held non-conference foe Vail Christian to just one field goal in the fourth quarter, and clamped down during a second half in which the Saints twice pulled to within six. Despite scoring fewer than 40 points for a second consecutive game, Aspen finished strong to pull off a 39-23 victory ” its second in three games this season.

“I told the girls we had to play hard and smart down the stretch,” Skiers head coach Jeremy Haack said. “They did exactly that. … It was great to bounce back like that.”

After the Skiers opened the season with a 30-point win over Lake County on Friday, they lost to Eagle Valley, 65-30, on Saturday. In the opening eight minutes Tuesday, Aspen looked as though it was still reeling.

The Skiers and Saints combined for just nine points during a first quarter riddled with errant shots and turnovers. Aspen’s lone field goal came with 1 minute, 28 seconds remaining when Lindsey Anderson, in the clutches of a defender in the paint, threw the ball at the rim and got a lucky bounce.

2A Vail Christian packed its zone inside the key, daring Aspen to operate from beyond the 3-point arc.

“They didn’t come out and pressure us,” Anderson said. “We had to pass a lot and that took time off the clock.”

In order to attack the Saints’ zone, Haack told his players to look to penetrate, draw two defenders then kick the ball back out for open looks. Georgia Lipkin was the beneficiary of such a play to open the second, and the junior nailed a two in the corner. Later, Kylie Westerlind scored in traffic, then drove into the lane and passed back to Lipkin for a 3, stretching the lead to 14-6.

Westerlind connected from long distance in the waning minutes to give the Skiers a 19-10 halftime lead.

Lipkin hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter ” six of her 11 points in the game ” but Aspen could not pull away. Vail Christian’s Michelle Disher pulled down an offensive board, absorbed contact and scored, then sank the ensuing free throw. Teammate Matyson Peckham later threw up a desperation 3 from the corner that found the net, cutting the Skiers’ lead to 29-21 heading to the fourth quarter.

Peckham scored in the lane on the first possession of the fourth quarter. The Saints went scoreless in the final seven minutes.

Anderson and Katy Evans hit four straight free throws to stretch the Aspen advantage to 10, and Westerlind and Anderson sealed the victory with buckets in the waning minutes. Anderson led all scorers with 14, while Westerlind added nine.

“It was a balanced scoring effort,” Haack said. “A lot of the points came off the hustle of our defense. It was a great defensive performance.”

Samantha Francis and Drisher each had seven points for the Saints, who dropped to 0-4. They’ve been held to 23 or fewer points in all but one game this year.

The Skiers open 3A Western Slope play Friday at Hotchkiss.

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