Cards dump ‘Horns |

Cards dump ‘Horns

Jon Maletz
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times
Paul Conrad | The Aspen Times

Aspen, CO ColoradoBASALT The Basalt boys basketball team whittled a 21-point deficit to 11 with three minutes to play in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s game with 2A Grand Valley.Then, Cardinals guard Sam McKinley, much like he did the entire game, took over. The 6-foot-1 senior fired a perfect pass to Mitch Belden underneath for an easy lay-in, then stepped back and buried a 3-pointer to force a Longhorns timeout.Fittingly, McKinley sealed the game with one minute remaining when he drove through all five Basalt defenders for the last two of his game-high 33 points. Grand Valley, 5-0 against the 3A Western Slope this season, beat the Longhorns, 71-56.”He’s started for us for four years, and he’s a real competitor,” Cardinals coach Scott Kiburis said. “It’s nice to have him on your side.”

McKinley asserted himself from the opening tip. During one three-minute stretch in the quarter, he drove to the basket for two, drained a long 3-pointer, then hit another from long distance despite being fouled, then sank the free throw.”He’s very quick, and he controls his body so well,” Basalt head coach Mike Green said.Grand Valley led 18-17 after one quarter but turned up the pressure to open the second. McKinley drained a 3 from 25 feet on Grand Valley’s first possession. He forced a turnover on the ensuing play when the Cardinals opened with full-court pressure and drove right to the basket for an easy two. After a Basalt timeout, McKinley fired another 3 to put Grand Valley ahead, 26-17. He finished with 20 in the half as the Cardinals opened up an 11-point advantage at the break.

“After the pregame, I felt like I was going to have a pretty good game,” McKinley said. “Our defense led to some fast breaks. We got some free buckets and that really helped.”The Cardinals, one of 2A’s top teams, opened the third on an 8-0 run to jump ahead by 19. Despite trailing by 17 after three quarters, Basalt refused to wilt. The Longhorns ramped up their pressure, forced a few Grand Valley turnovers and strung together an 8-0 run to pull to 62-51. Basalt’s inability to capitalize from the foul line thwarted the comeback – the Longhorns were 3-of-10 from the line in the final five minutes.”We had some opportunities, but we just didn’t capitalize,” said Green, whose Longhorns beat Cedaredge on Saturday. “There were times where we forgot where we were supposed to be.”

Basalt was more successful in forcing McKinley to take difficult shots during the second half, Green said. Still, McKinley found openings and took the opportunity to find his teammates for easy baskets. “The defense got tight on him and that’s a good and bad thing. He really wants to beat that defender and that sometime takes us out of what we want to do,” Kiburis said. “But we live with it, because Sam does something good for us more often than not.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail is