Basalt boys hang tough, but Skiers prevail |

Basalt boys hang tough, but Skiers prevail

Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

BASALT When Aspen and Basalt meet, throw out the records and the expectations.So said Skiers head basketball coach Steve Ketchum two days before Friday’s game against the Longhorns. It seemed like a politically correct statement at the time, considering Aspen outscored its downvalley rivals by a total of 79 points in two earlier routs. Sure enough, the coach’s prophesy became reality in the final minute Friday, when he was forced to pull his starters off the bench and back onto the court when Basalt cut the lead to 12. But Aspen (11-2 overall, 8-0 conference) managed to overcome mediocre play and an inspired effort from an improving Longhorns squad to prevail, 64-51, and remain unbeaten in 3A Western Slope play.”I was proud of Basalt. They competed well, handled the ball great and showed a lot of improvement,” Ketchum said. “It wasn’t one of our stellar, better performances, but we’ll take the win.”It looked early as though the teams’ third matchup would follow the script of the previous two. After Basalt guard Connor Rakowski buried a 3-pointer on the opening possession of the second quarter, Aspen reeled off a 13-3 run fueled by the play of Cory Parker and Michael Taylor. Parker completed a three-point play on a hard drive to the basket, then stepped into a passing lane on defense and finished in transition. Taylor followed with a dunk one minute later. Parker scored 20 of his game-high 24 points in the first half. “My shot wasn’t there, so I drove to the basket a lot,” Parker said. “… Our defense just wasn’t there. We lacked passion and heart.”The Longhorns rallied in the half’s final three minutes. Sophomore Omar Lopez hit six straight from the free throw line, then sank a jumper, and Basalt pulled to within 33-24 at the break.”We came to play,” Basalt coach Jason Kreiling said. “Given the results of the last two games, I don’t think Aspen was quite expecting it.” In a game of runs, Aspen opened the third with a 15-2 spurt in which six different players scored. The Skiers extended their defensive pressure to full court and generated multiple turnovers, leading to easy buckets. Aspen matched its largest lead of the game when reserve Trevor Watson buried a fadeaway 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Skiers a 54-32 lead after three quarters.Basalt staged one final comeback push against the Skiers, who have held opponents to 34 or fewer points in six of their last nine games – all wins. After Josh Gartner hit 1-of-2 from the line to give Aspen a 60-40 advantage, Taylor Foreman-Niko scored twice underneath and Rakowski buried a three from the corner. Lopez then hit a runner in the lane with less than two minutes remaining.As Lopez stepped to the line to attempt two free throws with 1:15 remaining in a 12-point game, Ketchum motioned to his starters lounging on the bench.”I don’t think anyone on our team is happy with the effort tonight,” Ketchum said. “We’ll stick together. Hopefully we can shake off the rust, the dirt, whatever it is we’ve got going.”Lopez hit 1-of-2 and had the Longhorns faithful pondering a miracle. Taylor provided the exclamation point on a Skiers win, however, when he backed down a defender for a tough two, stretching the lead to 13.In a season where he and his team are still searching for their first win, Kreiling believes the Longhorns may have found something Friday.”We played No. 6 in he state, and we hung with them for a few quarters,” Kreiling said. “… In a valley rivalry game, you never know who will come out on top.”

Skiers guard Julia Hassall’s half-court prayer deflected off the backboard and in as the third-quarter buzzer sounded.

Aspen’s upset bid against rival Basalt was in full-swing.After a defensive stop on the opening possession of the fourth quarter, The Skiers dribbled across midcourt with the chance to cut the No. 1 team in 3A’s lead to two possessions. Despite turning the ball over 23 times in the first 24 minutes, Aspen trailed by only nine points.

But the Longhorns turned a game in doubt into a rout. In the final eight minutes, a span dominated by careless Aspen ball handling and breakaway lay-ups, Basalt went on a 22-5 run – it scored the game’s final 19 points – and rolled to a 68-32 win.”That Saran Wrap we put on the rim, I think we put it on the wrong one,” Basalt coach Carolyn Compton said. “I think we missed more shots than they took.”We’ve been starting a little slow. There’s a difference between slow and sloppy like we were tonight. Sloppy I can’t handle.”Aspen guard Grace Seigle sank three 3-pointers in the second quarter to keep the Skiers (3-10, 0-8) in the game after Basalt opened up a 10-point cushion. The senior’s last 3 cut Aspen’s deficit to just four. Longhorns guard Kat Fitzpatrick answered right back, however, sinking a runner, then absorbing a bump in transition to score at the buzzer; she converted the three-point play, and Basalt took a 25-17 lead into intermission.That advantage increased by only one point in the third thanks to Hassall’s heroics.”Our goal was to be close after three quarters,” said Aspen coach Jeremy Haack, whose team has lost 10 straight. “The girls were excited.”

Excitement quickly turned to frustration. Katelyn Timroth pulled down an offensive board then scored the final quarter’s first bucket, giving Basalt an 11-point lead. Then the track meet began.The Longhorns (11-1, 7-0) dominated on the offensive boards and in the open court. By the time Haack called a timeout midway through the quarter in an effort to slow Basalt down, his team’s deficit had ballooned to 17.”They’re a great team, and we just turned the ball over way too many times,” said Haack, who estimated his team’s final turnover total to be in the mid-30s. Basalt senior Dayne Toney, who scored 18 points in a win against Gunnison on Jan. 26, snapped out of what was a poor shooting performance with 13 points in the fourth. Seven players scored in the final quarter for the Longhorns, who extended their season-long win streak to nine. “My girls really are that good,” Compton said of the fourth-quarter surge. “They just have to decide they want to be that good all the time.”

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