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Aspen impressive in regional semis

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Steve Johnson/The Aspen TimesSkiers forward Trevor Watson goes up strong against two Bayfield defenders in Friday night's 3A state tournament regional semifinals at Aspen High School.
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ASPEN ” Sharp-shooting Aspen guard Andrew Papenfus never took off his warm-ups Friday night. The Skiers hardly skipped a beat in his absence.

Aspen, the top overall seed in this year’s 3A state tournament, jumped out to a 14-point lead after one quarter in Friday’s regional semifinals against No. 8 Bayfield and held the overmatched Wolverines without a field goal for the first five minutes of the second. The Skiers closed the third on a 20-3 run and, with their starters seated for the game’s final eight minutes, rolled to a 69-36 victory, moving one step closer to a return trip to Fort Collins and the Great 8.

More important, Aspen (22-1) was able to rest Papenfus, one of the team’s top offensive weapons who is nursing a sprained right MCL sustained in practice Tuesday. While he officially remains questionable, the junior will likely play today when the Skiers square off with No. 5 Buena Vista at 1 p.m. in the regional final. The Demons (14-10) pulled off a 67-57 win over No. 4 Platte Valley (16-8) in Friday’s earlier semifinal.

“It was a pretty good effort tonight,” Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum said. “We played solid defense. … It’s a great start. I really have nothing to complain about.”

Guard Matthew Holmes hit three free throws, then Trevor Watson, Zack Babich and Walker Moriarty scored to spark an 11-0 Skiers run in the final 2 minutes, 34 seconds of the first quarter to break open a tight, sloppy game.

Aspen’s shut-down defense went to work, harassing the Wolverines’ backcourt and contesting nearly every shot in the paint during the second quarter. The Skiers didn’t allow a field goal until the 2:52 mark, and by then they had amassed a 24-point advantage.

Four different players scored six or more points during the first half for Aspen, which led, 41-18, at the break.

“It was a great team effort,” Babich said. “Everyone really came out and played hard.”

Desperate to climb back into the game, Bayfield opened the third quarter will full-court pressure that produced five quick points ” a 3-pointer from Jamie Tinnin and a short jumper from Tanner Phelps ” and forced Ketchum to burn a timeout with 7:21 remaining.

Holmes took over from there. The junior score seven of his team’s first nine points in the quarter ” two on acrobatic drives and the other on a 3 from the wing ” and Aspen scored 20 of the quarter’s final 23 points to pull ahead, 61-26.

Holmes finished with a game-high 15 points despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter with the rest of the starting five. Trevor Watson pitched in with 13, 10 of which came in the first 16 minutes.

Babich, who missed a large portion of the season after breaking his wrist in Dec. 9’s game against Palisade, took full advantage of his extended playing time. The junior controlled the paint, scoring 10 points and pulling down 12 rebounds.

Eleven players logged playing time Friday and seven scored for the Skiers, who have won eight straight.

“Teams have highs and lows, and this is one of our highs,” said Babich, a transfer from Key West, Fla. “It’s always great to have some support off the bench.”

Aspen will need contributions up and down its lineup today if it is to top Buena Vista and secure a second-

consecutive regional title. The Skiers beat Salida last year to advance to the Great 8, and made it all the way to the state semifinals.

“It’s going to be one heck of a game,” Ketchum said. “Where happy with where we’re at right now, but we’re going to have to bring everything tomorrow.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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