Aspen Skiers on a hoops roll |

Aspen Skiers on a hoops roll

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Aspen coach Steve Ketchum was caught off guard.As he and Hotchkiss coach Brian Benson shook hands at midcourt after Saturday’s game, the first-year Bulldogs coach said something unexpected: “I really appreciate you taking it easy on us.”No opposing coach had ever mouthed such words to Ketchum – and especially not after a 40-point loss. The Skiers, currently the six-ranked team in 3A, opened on an 11-0 run in the game’s first minute, poured in 30 in the first quarter and rolled to a convincing 72-31 win.How dominant was Aspen? Senior Cory Parker had 27 points on 86 percent shooting, five assists and three steals – in little more than two quarters.It’s clear parity no longer reigns in the 3A Western Slope, Ketchum said Tuesday. Hotchkiss is one of four teams who has one or fewer victories in conference play.”We used to be a little more balanced than this, but now it’s not like that at all,” he added. “The top four teams are good, but the bottom four are really struggling.”The Skiers (10-2 overall, 7-0 conference) are rolling. They’ve won eight straight games and are outscoring opponents by an average of more than 33 points a game during that stretch.Aspen opened the third quarter of Friday’s game at Coal Ridge with a 15-1 run to blow open a relatively tight game. The Skiers, buoyed by Parker’s 27 points, cruised to the 51-34 win. Less than 24 hours later, The Skiers took control at the opening tip. They opened with an 11-0 run, generating then capitalizing on multiple turnovers with an aggressive press. “If it kept going like that, we were going to score 100 points,” Ketchum said. “We scored 30 into he first quarter and had already played 10 to 12 kids. … We didn’t press the rest of the game. I felt bad for them.”Tommy Rittenhouse, Michael Taylor and Trevor Watson matched Parker with a combined 27 points despite playing sparingly for the Skiers, who beat the Bulldogs, 94-24, during the teams’ first meeting Jan. 5.”It’s been tough for the coaching staff to find ways to keep the guys motivated. We tell them to play hard, because they might not be in very long,” Ketchum said. “I’ve been on the other end of blowouts. I’m not used to being on this end. … We’re not trying to win by 40. We’re concentrating on the future.”The Skiers don’t figure to be tested this week when they travel to Basalt on Thursday, then host Olathe on Friday. Aspen has outscored the Longhorns, 139-60, in two lopsided wins this season. And The Pirates have yet to win a conference game.But Ketchum isn’t about to take anything for granted, he said. That’s especially the case when the Skiers meet their downvalley rivals.”Any time Aspen and Basalt plays, you can throw records out the window,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whose the better team and who has the better record. It could be a really close, hard-fought game. We know they’re a better team than what they’ve shown.”

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