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Basalt girls advance to semifinals

Jon MaletzThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

BASALT Guard Kat Fitzpatrick’s right wrist is in good shape. So is Basalt.The senior scored 10 points in the first quarter of Tuesday’s district tournament opener against Aspen, and the top-seeded Longhorns jumped out to a 26-5 lead after eight minutes. They never looked back, cruising to a 58-33 victory over the eighth-seeded Skiers.The defending district champions and state tournament runner-up will play fifth-seeded Coal Ridge in Friday’s semifinals at Palisade High School. The Titans knocked off Gunnison, 40-36, in other first-round action Tuesday.”We were ready, and that’s what I was hoping for,” Basalt coach Carolyn Compton said. “The girls are worthy of it. … That’s Longhorns basketball.”Basalt (17-3) struggled through injuries and illness in the final two weeks of the regular season, resulting in a mediocre 2-2 record. Fitzpatrick injured her wrist Feb. 15 against Olathe, and her offensive production has been hindered ever since.She appeared healthy Tuesday. Gone was the heavy tape job and back was her shooting touch inside the paint. She was one of four Longhorns to score in the opening minute and a half as Basalt roared to an 8-2 lead. After Aspen guard Grace Seigle hit a runner in the lane, the Longhorns seized control, reeling off 17 consecutive points. Fitzpatrick scored four consecutive buckets during the run, scoring down low off a pass from Hailey Guglielmo, once in transition and twice when she pulled down offensive boards and went back up for scores. “Within the last four days, [my wrist] has really gotten better,” said Fitzpatrick, who finished with a game-high 20 points. “We played a good first quarter. Now, we want to play four of those.”If Aspen was stunned, it didn’t show it. The Skiers (4-16) shrugged off the first quarter and leaned on senior guard Julia Hassall to help them climb back into the game. Hassall nailed a jumper to open the second and later scored in transition and from behind the arc on consecutive possessions. Aspen closed on an 8-2 run in the final five minutes before the half, trimming its deficit to 13. Hassall finished with 15 points.The Skiers outscored the Longhorns, 13-7, in the quarter.”We came back and made it a game,” Aspen coach Jeremy Haack said. “After the first, we wanted to cut the lead to 10 before the half, but we missed a 3 right before the buzzer. It was a 13-point lead at halftime, and the first three possessions of the third, we didn’t score. You have to take advantage of those opportunities. “Score there and it would’ve been a different game.”While Aspen was stagnant offensively in the third, producing just seven points and hitting one of its four free throw attempts, the Longhorns stretched their lead. Fitzpatrick picked off a pass and scored in transition, Toney pulled down an offensive board and scored, then senior Emily Peetz hit a jumper and a 3-pointer from the corner in succession to give Basalt a 45-23 advantage. Peetz finished with 15 and Toney had 11.Aspen was outscored by just five points during the final three quarters, but could do little to overcome the Longhorns’ fast start. The Skiers pulled no closer than 21 points in the fourth quarter.”We knew we couldn’t take them for granted,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have the mentality of lose or go home. … We really have to focus on this weekend and taking one game at a time. We have to tighten up some things to get ready for the Denver teams.”Last year’s district tournament championship propelled Basalt to a two-game regional sweep and a run all the way to the state title game. Its next hurdle is Coal Ridge, a squad the Longhorns outscored, 119-70, in two previous meetings.”We’re on a new journey now,” Compton said. “We’re ready for it.”jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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