Colbert’s Prep Playbook: Playoff mania hits stride and AHS boys have chance
So you’re telling me there’s a chance?
No, I’m not queuing up any overdone “Dumb and Dumber” jokes, simply bringing up a point made to me the other day by Aspen High School boys basketball coach Alex Schrempf. Essentially, it’s been a few years since AHS stood much of a chance come postseason play, likely going back to the 2013-14 season when the team finished 19-5 in what would end up being coach Steven Ketchum’s final squad.
But this year feels different. Aspen (12-8 overall), seeded No. 7, plays at No. 2 seed Coal Ridge (14-5) in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A Western Slope League district tournament at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. The Skiers are certainly the underdogs with their season on the line, but for the first time in a handful of years it feels like they might actually have a chance.
The last time the two teams met in district play was in 2017, Schrempf’s first season as head coach, when the Titans rolled to a 77-31 win. In 2018, AHS lost as the No. 9 seed to No. 8 seed Cedaredge in the district pigtail game, 55-47. In 2019, AHS crushed Basalt in the district pigtail game, 70-43, before losing to No. 1 seed Delta, 72-23. Aspen hasn’t been to the state tournament since Ketchum’s final season.
The 2020 squad, led by seniors Jonathan Woodrow and Aidan Ledingham, not to mention a trio of talented underclassmen in Taylor Akin, Lucas Lee and Braden Korpela, probably won’t get there, either, a feat that would require making the district championship game.
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Then again, AHS only lost to Coal Ridge 66-58 on Feb. 14, their only meeting this season, when the Skiers were still far from complete. Barring No. 6 Roaring Fork (5-14) pulling off the upset, the semifinal game would come against No. 3 seed Grand Valley (12-7), a team Aspen beat, 45-40, on Jan. 25. Look at it that way and suddenly the Skiers playing for the district title doesn’t sound so crazy.
BASALT GIRLS HEAD TO CEDAREDGE
Also Tuesday night, the Basalt High School girls basketball team, seeded No. 7, will travel to No. 2 Cedaredge (16-3) in the district quarterfinals (again a 6 p.m. tip). BHS (9-9) has won more games this season since that 2007-08 team went 23-4 and made the state quarterfinals.
However, beating the Bruins will be no small task. In their lone meeting this season on Jan. 31, Cedaredge beat Basalt, 49-20, after jumping out to 29-8 halftime lead. The Bruins have developed one of the best girls basketball programs on the Western Slope and like No. 1 seed Delta — assuming those two teams make the district championship game — will be a handful for anyone come the state tournament.
ASPEN HOCKEY MAKES PLAYOFFS
In what has been a tough season for Aspen High hockey, there still is everything to play for. AHS (3-10-4 overall) made the 24-team state tournament as the No. 23 seed and will play Wednesday at No. 10 Ralston Valley (12-7) in the first round. Game time is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. at the Apex Center in Arvada. The winner plays No. 7 Doherty on Friday.
The teams haven’t played since the 2017-18 season, when No. 11 Aspen beat No. 22 Ralston Valley in the first round of the state playoffs, 6-3. AHS made the quarterfinals that season, losing to eventual state runner-up Valor Christian.
Ralston Valley has twice won the state championship, the latest coming in 2014. Aspen’s lone state championship in hockey came in 2007.
This Thursday and Friday are the state skiing championships, where Aspen will be looking for a three-peat on the boys’ side. The girls last won in 2018 before finishing as state runner-up last winter.
Beaver Creek is hosting the alpine events while Maloit Park in Minturn will host the nordic events. Battle Mountain High School in Edwards will be the main race hub and host the awards dinner.
Aspen should without question be among the favorites to win another state championship in either gender. They are the Skiers, after all.
WRESTLING IS A WRAP
In case you missed it, Basalt senior Ernesto Lopez finished fourth at state wrestling in Class 3A’s heavyweight division over the weekend. I wanted to give Erny one final shout out for an incredible career at BHS, highlighted by his dominant play on the football field (he signed with Western Colorado University for football). I’m guessing his Longhorn athletic career is a wrap, as he usually plays rugby in the spring for the Junior Gents.
ABOUT MICHAEL GLEN
If anyone deserves a shout out, I’d say Michael Glen is on that list. The former Basalt basketball standout surpassed 1,000 career points with the Colorado School of Mines men’s basketball program Friday, a 79-43 win over Black Hills State.
Glen, a junior, now has 1,018 career points in 90 career games (he’s started 89 of those), an average of 11.3 points per game. The Orediggers are 19-9 overall this season and 15-6 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference with their regular-season finale coming Friday at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
Note: This will be my final Prep Playbook column of the winter season. It’ll return next month after a short hiatus. Believe it or not, spring sports practices officially start Monday.
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Puckett was a five-time Olympian and World Cup skier