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Aspen’s Ketchum notches 200th win

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesAspen head boys basketball coach Steve Ketchum, center, celebrates with his players Tuesday night after beating Roaring Fork to secure his 200th win with the Skiers.
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ASPEN – Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum opted for a few choice words instead of a drawn-out speech.

“I love you guys. I really appreciate it,” he told his players, who huddled in the locker room after Tuesday’s game. “You’ll forever be a huge part of my personal success. I hope I’ve been a part of yours as well.”

Ketchum’s coaching career has spanned three decades and two continents, from rural Missouri to the professional ranks in Germany. Among the highlights of his 11-plus year tenure with the Skiers are consecutive 3A Western Slope, district and regional titles and trips to the Great Eight in Fort Collins each of the last two seasons.

Add one more accolade to the list.

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Tuesday’s 50-37 victory against familiar foe Roaring Fork was Ketchum’s 200th in Aspen.

“I could never have imagined this,” the coach said. “This is a great administration to work for, and I’ve had a lot of great players that have made me look good.

“Personally, this is a prideful moment, but I know it’s not me that got to 200. … I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with a group like this.”

And thankful his team pulled out a win.

The Rams forced a noticeably tight Skiers squad into scores of quick, ill-advised shots in the early going Tuesday. On offense, Roaring Fork scored three times in the paint, then Arick Zeigel connected from beyond the arc to give his team a 9-0 advantage with 4 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.

The cake sitting in the gym lobby appeared to be headed back to the refrigerator.

“I was sweating it the whole time,” Ketchum admitted. “Give [Roaring Fork head coach] Larry Williams and his team a lot of credit. They were extremely well coached and well disciplined. … I was thinking it was going to be a long night.

“I didn’t want to blow it on a game like this.”

His team countered with a 10-0 spurt – one sparked by Andrew Papenfus’ two 3-pointers – to take a one-point lead after eight points.

The Rams could muster just one field goal in the second quarter, but kept struggling Aspen in their sights. The Skiers, who produced two points but no field goals in the final four minutes, led by just three at the half.

“We gave [Ketchum] a couple gray hairs,” Papenfus joked. “We really came out and were lackadaisical.”

“I think it was kind of nerves, but I’m glad that we fought through that,” senior Nick Codd added.

As has been its tendency much of the season, Aspen erupted in the third. While they surrendered just one field goal on defense, the Skiers generated more motion on offense and looked to penetrate and feed the post. Papenfus nailed a 3 to stretch the lead to six with 3:10 remaining, then Matthew Holmes made a strong cut in the lane, controlled a pass and scored. Soon after, Papenfus came away with a steal and finished, then Holmes picked off an in-bounds pass and fed Nicky Fuller for the easy score.

Codd and Zack Babich scored in the paint in the final minutes to give Aspen a 35-19 lead.

Aspen led by as many as 15 in the fourth quarter. Still, a pained expression covered Ketchum’s face as he anxiously paced up and down the bench.

At least until the final buzzer sounded.

Then, the coach raised two clenched fists into the air as a grin – likely one of both relief and joy – formed at the corners of his mouth.

Soon, he exchanged a kiss with his wife and handshakes with Mayor Mick Ireland and other well-wishers before posing for photographs with his team and coaching staff.

Nearly all of them held up two fingers.

“I’m glad we could do this for him,” Codd said.

“It was pretty awesome,” Papenfus added. “He’s a phenomenal coach, and I love playing for him. He knows exactly what needs to be done and how to get kids to do it. … This was great to be a part of, and hopefully we can make some more [history] as we go along.”

Ketchum, whose squad set a school record Tuesday with its 15th straight win to open the season, is hoping any future milestones he reaches come while guiding the Skiers.

“I plan on being here and doing this until my kids graduate,” he added. “This is the first place I’ve really been able to call home.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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