Heartbreak Skier girls stumble again | AspenTimes.com

Heartbreak Skier girls stumble again

Nate PetersonAspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

ASPEN The tears Julia Hassall tried to choke back said it all.So close.After 10 straight losses, Hassall and her Skiers teammates looked like winners Friday night, battling back from as many as 14 down to lead Olathe, 42-40, with 90 seconds left in regulation. It was over. Then it wasn’t.Sticking with a theme that’s become all to familiar – and painful – for the Skiers during their winless run through the 3A Western Slope, Olathe became the latest conference foe to snatch a win away from Hassall and Co.The Pirates’ Paige Markley stripped the ball from the Skiers’ standout senior guard at mid-court in the final minute, then converted a lay-in to tie the game. In overtime, Olathe jumped out to quick four-point lead, and the Skiers never recovered. Aspen (3-11, 0-9) was as close as three with four seconds to go but was forced to foul, and Markley buried the clinching free throw for a 51-47 Pirates win.

“We’re still going to fight,” a steeled Hassall said after the loss. “We’re a team, and it’s not just one person’s fault if we lose. It’s the whole team, and we’re going to stick together until the end, until our last game against Cedaredge. We’re going to play our hardest and stick together. That’s what teams do.”Aspen coach Jeremy Haack said nearly the exact same thing, noting that he was proud of his players for never giving up, especially after going down, 37-23, midway through the third quarter.Hassall, who finished with 25 points on 8-of-22 shooting, led a furious Skiers’ rally from there, opening with two free throws before draining one of her two 3-pointers. Down six to start the fourth, Hassall led the Skiers on a 6-1 run. Then Aspen junior Kylie Westerlind stripped Olathe’s Joya L’Ecuyer at midcourt and sprinted for a lay-up to put Aspen up.Aspen’s Lindsey Anderson then added two free throws to push the advantage to three before Markley sank a free-throw for the Pirates.With the lead, the Skiers tried to play keep-away during the game’s final two minutes instead of trying to add to the lead. The strategy was one Haack defended after the loss.”We had a two-point lead, they miss a shot down there and we’re coming back our way and we turn the ball over at half court,” he said. “I don’t remember exactly what happened. It was crazy, but the bottom line is this: We fouled them too much, they ended up making free throws and that ended up being the difference in the game.”You’ve got to take care of your opportunities in the first, second and third quarter so you’re not coming down to this this situation in the fourth quarter.”

Pirates coach Paul Althaus said he was just happy his team managed to pull out a tough road win after letting Aspen back into the game.The bus ride back home would have felt a lot longer after a close loss.”We know and we understand over the years when we come up here, it’s our longest road trip, so it’s hard to get on that bus and ride all the way,” Althaus said. “We know it’s going to be a tough game, and we know Aspen’s been struggling and they’re working hard to get that first win in league. We knew it’d be tough.”Aspen will get its chance for payback next Friday when it heads to Olathe for the second game in the season series.”We’ve got five tough games left,” Haack said. “We’ve got Olathe on the road next Friday and then Gunnison on Saturday. I’ve said it all year long: We have a good team, we’re in a tough league and we’re going to keep fighting.”Westerlind was Aspen’s second-leading scorer with six points. Anderson and Grace Seigle combined for 19 rebounds.Markley and L’Ecuyer each had 12 points for the Pirates.Skiers boys 74, Olathe 37Senior forward Cory Parker had 24 points in the first half and finished with 31 to lead Aspen to another lopsided league victory.

The Skiers led, 27-7, at the end of first quarter and, despite calling off a full-court trap, continued to extend the advantage.Senior Michael Tucker finished with 15 points and Brian Westerlind added six to go with five rebounds. Aspen (12-2, 9-0) sank eight 3-pointers and was 22-of-33 from inside the arc. Parker had three 3-pointers of his own, including two in a row to give the Skiers an early 15-3 lead. Since topping defending league champ Roaring Fork, 61-57, on Jan 12, the Skiers have been blowing out league foes, with margins of victory no smaller than 13 and as high as 39.Parker said that’s nice, although the sixth-ranked Skiers would love a bit more of a challenge.”These games are good confidence boosters,” Parker said. “We have fun in these games and try to do some things for the crowd, but as we go on, it gets a little frustrating. We play basketball for tough games against teams like Roaring Fork. We play basketball because we want to play in games that are decided in the fourth quarter.”The Skiers have five more league games, including a rematch with Roaring Fork on Feb. 19 that will likely decide the league title. Aspen next plays at 7 p.m. Friday at Olathe.npeterson@aspentimes.com.

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