End of line for Aspen boys hoops
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Steve Ketchum paused to console nearly every one of his players Saturday as he walked through a crowded but uncomfortably silent home locker room.
The veteran Aspen head basketball coach then took a moment to collect his thoughts. He removed his glasses and wiped the tears from his eyes.
“I feel so bad for this group,” he said. “We just didn’t have it tonight. We just didn’t have enough.”
The dream is over.
A season filled with success and optimism came to an abrupt end for the
seventh-seeded Skiers in the 3A state tournament sub-region final. They struggled to contend with No. 10 Holy Family’s persistent, aggressive defensive pressure and repeatedly faltered at the foul line. The battle-tested Tigers stood tall down the stretch, hitting multiple key shots in the waning minutes to escape with a 48-46 win.
In the process, they denied Aspen (19-5) a fourth trip to the Great 8 in the last five seasons.
“It’s a lot harder knowing that you should’ve had it, you should’ve won,” senior guard Quinn Morehead lamented. “Missing free throws, missing easy shots down the stretch and giving them easy stuff sure makes things harder.”
“It’s always tough to lose the last game of the season, especially one this tight,” senior forward Austin Roark added. “Little things could’ve changed the game. That really hangs with you.”
The Skiers breezed through Friday’s tournament opener against Lake County, erupting for 66 points. They had no such luck Saturday against a disciplined Holy Family squad, which finished fourth in the 3A Metro, widely regarded as the state’s toughest conference.
Aspen ballhandlers were pressured the instant they passed halfcourt, resulting in eight first-quarter turnovers. The Skiers mustered just four points in the opening eight minutes on baskets from Roark and Jake Nugent.
“Give Holy Family credit. They flustered us, got under our skin, and it took us a little too long to relax,” said Roark, who finished with 16 points. “That defense has a reputation, and they played a great game.”
“That was by far the best defense we played all year,” added senior guard James Powell. “We could’ve done so many things better.”
Every possession also was a struggle for the Tigers (15-9), who generated few open looks against an active Aspen zone.
The pace quickened somewhat in the second. Daniel Amador buried a 3, and Roark hit two free throws to give the Skiers a 13-10 lead about four minutes before halftime. They went cold from there, however, twice missing the front ends of one-and-ones.
Connor Clay and Gintas Jarasius scored in the paint in the final two minutes to put Holy Family on top by three at the break.
“The turnover bug bit us early … and the free throw thing, I don’t know what happened,” Ketchum said. “We had good free-throw shooters on the line. They were all one-and-ones, and we missed them all. Have a few of those fall, and we win the game.”
The Tigers, meanwhile, looked right at home at the charity stripe. They hit six of eight free throw attempts in the first six minutes of the third quarter to amass a 24-19 advantage – the largest of the game by either team.
Aspen answered back. Morehead rolled off a screen and sprinted to the basket, scoring in traffic to spark an 8-2 run in the quarter’s final 2:27 and put the Skiers ahead, 27-26.
Morehead and Roark gave Aspen two-point leads with clutch baskets early in a pressure-packed fourth quarter. A string of untimely miscues proved costly, however.
Guard Chuck Hollwedel shook free at the top of the key with about 5:20 to play, and his 3-pointer gave Holy Family a one-point cushion. On the ensuing Skiers possession, David Sommers picked off a lazy pass and scored in transition.
About 20 seconds later, a Tigers player pulled down a rebound on a missed Roark free throw, pushed the ball up court and found Sommers all alone on the wing. The sophomore hit a 3, and the Aspen deficit once again ballooned to five.
“It was a little mental lapse. You forget what you’re doing, you’re a little tired and you don’t get out on your man,” Ketchum said. “When you play great teams, that’s what happens. You have to play great every second. We had our chances to win, and we had a lead in the fourth quarter. We just couldn’t finish.”
Holy Family hit six of eight from the line in the final 1:11 to secure the victory and its spot in Fort Collins.
“We knew they’d bring the pressure, and we’ve faced a couple teams that have had that mentality, but none of us were really ready for the regional-playoff mentality,” Morehead said. “We weren’t as prepared as Holy Family, who’s been here before.
“I’m proud of everyone. We really gave it our all. It just didn’t fall for us. It’s a tough one.”
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