Basalt girls get back on track |

Basalt girls get back on track

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet Aspen Times

BASALT ” Basalt head girls basketball coach Carolyn Compton altered her team’s pre-game routine Friday night, pulling out a children’s book on teamwork during a meeting in the locker room.

“I never had a coach do that before,” junior Ashley Soucie joked. “It was a surprise to us all.”

And maybe just the thing the Longhorns needed to snap out of their recent funk. Basalt jumped out to an early lead against visiting Grand Valley on Friday, showcasing its strength in the paint and in transition. The Longhorns withstood a late Cardinals rally with some timely ball handling and free throws to pull out a 57-52 victory, snapping a three-game losing streak.

“We found that control at another level,” Compton said. “I feel like we still have a lot to offer, and I think it’s OK that I’m still waiting on it. I hope that means we’re going to peak at the right time.”

Basalt peaked down the stretch Friday night. After the Cardinals pulled to within six at 51-45 with two minutes remaining in the fourth, Basalt came up empty on its following possession. But as a Grand Valley guard pushed the ball up court, Jamie Matherly alertly tapped the ball away, controlled it and fired a perfect pass to Melissa Stewart for the easy lay-in.

After three more Cardinals points from the foul line, Soucie delivered the game’s decisive blow, absorbing a bump and finishing off the glass before tumbling to the hardwood.

She missed the ensuing free throw, but Stewart and Matherly went 4-for-6 from the line in the final 25 seconds to seal the win.

“It was a tough loss to Roaring Fork, but they played hard and deserved it,” Soucie said. “We knew coming in tonight that we had to play exactly like them. … It felt good to come out and dominate. I was never worried.”

Basalt (6-8 overall, 6-5 conference) showed no lingering effects of Thursday’s difficult loss to the Rams, who were previously winless in the 3A Western Slope. With the game tied at eight after eight minutes, Soucie picked off a pass and scored in transition, then finished underneath on consecutive plays in the opening minute of the second quarter. The latter sparked an 11-3 run that put the Longhorns ahead, 21-12. Mackenzie Buck scored twice and Stewart connected from long range during the stretch. Soucie, Buck and Stewart combined for 20 of Basalt’s 22 first-half points.

The Cardinals answered with a 9-1 run in the final four minutes, 17 seconds of the half to cut Basalt’s lead to just one at halftime.

Both teams exchanged buckets during a tight third quarter in which no team led by more than seven. Buck scored underneath in the waning seconds to give Basalt a 39-35 advantage heading to the final quarter.

Grand Valley, which dropped an earlier meeting between the two teams by 14, pulled to within three in the opening minute when Karmel Steimel hit a 3-pointer from the wing. Buck, who opened the quarter with an acrobatic runner in the lane, pushed the lead back to five soon after with a turnaround jumper.

Later, the Cardinals pulled to within four when Kasi Jensen scored underneath with 1:55 remaining. Steimel cut the deficit to one possession when she hit a free throw with 48 seconds left.

Basalt had an answer.

“I still wasn’t worried,” Soucie said with a wry smile. “I was just thinking, ‘All right, Melissa. Just make those free throws.'”

Stewart did just that, giving the Longhorns their first win since Jan. 17 against Coal Ridge.

With five games remaining in the regular season ” it next tips off Feb. 7 at home against Hotchkiss ” Basalt is far from its usual spot atop the Slope standings.

Still, the Longhorns are in good position, Compton said.

“Unless your eighth or ninth, every team in this league is still in the mix,” she added. “The district tournament is going to be great. … If we find a little patience and start treating the ball like gold, we’ll be in much better shape.”

The Longhorns pulled out a dramatic win over Roaring Fork on Thursday night. Friday, they were simply overmatched.

Grand Valley, which last season made a run to the 2A state semifinals before moving up one classification, jumped out to a 10-2 lead Friday, closed the second quarter on a 9-2 run and cruised to a 53-35 win.

The Cardinals have outscored the Longhorns, 129-69, in two games this season.

“They’re well coached, they play hard and play the right way. They’re a handful,” Basalt head coach Jon Pettit said. “We couldn’t get any stops. … It seemed like we were a step behind.”

That became apparent early. Colter Cowan finished off the glass, then Michael Shepard converted a drive in the lane and a long 3 as Grand Valley surged ahead in the opening two minutes.

Omar Lopez and Luke Newberry scored in the final two minutes to trim the Longhorns’ deficit to a manageable 12-7 after one quarter.

Basalt’s struggles were just beginning.

Shepard and Jeremy Lawerence hit 3’s in the opening minutes of the second, prompting a Basalt timeout with 5:31 remaining until halftime. The stoppage of play did little to slow the Cardinals’ momentum. Six different players scored in the first 16 minutes for Grand Valley, which led, 29-14, at the break.

The Longhorns briefly pulled to within 10 in the first 1:13 of the third when David Gruenefeldt hit a long 3 and Austin Long hit two free throws. The Cardinals answered back, however, with Cole Kraft finishing on the offensive glass and Dalton Penner nailing a 15-footer in succession.

“I think they kind of wore us down,” Pettit said.

Shepard scored 13 and Cowan 11 ” including buzzer beaters in the second and third quarters ” for Grand Valley. Gruenefeldt finished with 14 for Basalt.

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