Aspen girls basketball looks to take more ‘baby steps’ in Year 2 under Aldridges

Going 4-15 overall usually isn’t something to get excited about, but for the Aspen High School girls basketball team it was a breath of fresh air. With the husband and wife duo of James and Lindsey Aldridge taking over last winter, the Skiers had their best season since a 10-12 campaign in 2011-12.

“Having the new coaches with James and Lindsey was really good for us and I think they just had different expectations for us last year,” AHS senior Maeve McGuire said. “Obviously it wasn’t the dream season, but we did a lot better than the years before.”

Prior to last season, the Skiers had gone exactly 1-19 overall four straight years. The team’s collective record from the 2012-13 season through the 2017-18 season was a mere 8-114.

But the 2018-19 crew, led by the Aldridges, began to develop a different mentality. It wasn’t necessarily that of a winning team, but maybe of a team that was tired of losing.

“It’s fun to win. … I’m glad most of us stuck with it throughout,” AHS senior Ella Trane said. “Just got to work on the fundamentals and we can work up from there.”

Most of Aspen’s success came early last season. The Skiers were 4-7 at one point before losing eight straight to close, including back-to-back losses to Basalt, the second coming in the district play-in game. Even in many of the losses, Aspen showed a competitiveness that it hadn’t in recent years.

“Our first two years here were in limbo and then last year it clicked,” AHS senior Climary Sanchez said of her fellow seniors, who have played alongside each other since seventh grade. “Having that and playing with the girls we’ve played with for a really long time, that makes a really good formula for success. Just baby steps.”

Sanchez, who led the team in points scored last season, Trane and McGuire look to be the centerpiece trio for the Skiers this season. Juniors Meghann Smiddy and Kelley Francis, as well as senior Payton Curley, are all in position to be major contributors as well.

“Definitely a lot of glimpses. We picked up right where we left off last year,” James Aldridge said. “If I can just get them to do the small things right. We’ve been saying it all week, get these loose balls, get these rebounds, make your layups, get your feet settled. Just getting all of the simple stuff right.”

Aspen opens its season Thursday at Meeker’s eight-team tournament. The Skiers will play the host team at 7:30 p.m. in the first round and then play again Friday and Saturday. AHS went 1-2 in this same tournament last winter, beating Mancos in the consolation semifinals, 36-16.

“Our goal this year is to obviously have a good time, but have a good time and maybe win a few more,” James Aldridge said. “If we can get a couple of wins, that would be huge. If we can just pump them up. I want them to go into games expecting to win.”