Hoops: Aspen boys pound ‘Dogs in district opener | AspenTimes.com

Hoops: Aspen boys pound ‘Dogs in district opener

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesSkiers forward Jake Nugent pulls down a rebound while being surrounded by a host of Hotchkiss defenders in Tuesday night's district-tournament game at Aspen High School.
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ASPEN – The Aspen boys basketball team is rolling. Talk about impeccable timing.

The Skiers opened postseason play Tuesday night against a Hotchkiss team they routed by 21 in last year’s district title game. The result was even more lopsided this time around.

Quinn Morehead scored 18 points, including 13 in a second quarter in which Aspen jumped out to an 18-point lead, and the efficient Skiers cruised to a

65-31, 3A Western Slope district tournament quarterfinal victory.

Aspen has reeled off seven straight wins. The scene now shifts to Palisade. With victories in Friday’s semifinals against Coal Ridge (8:15 p.m.) and in Saturday’s finals, the Skiers would clinch a fourth consecutive district crown and earn the right to host a sub-regional the following weekend.

That prospect seemed improbable a few short weeks ago, Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum admits. But even the team’s toughest critic now is starting to believe.

“It’s absolutely doable. It will be the hardest thing any of these kids has ever done, but it is doable,” the coach added.

“I think this was the first time this year that we really had it going on both ends.”

The Skiers (13-7) wasted little time seizing control on this night. They erased an early 7-5 deficit in the first with a 11-2, quarter ending run fueled by standout Bridger Dawson, who scored seven points in the first eight minutes.

Morehead took over in the second. He buried three 3-pointers and twice scored on transition lay-ups in the quarter, helping Aspen amass a 33-15 halftime lead.

“That was fun. I kept thinking, ‘Give me the ball,'” joked Morehead, who finished with 29 in his team’s 44-36 victory in Hotchkiss on Jan. 29. “Tonight, we really played as a team. We never got down on each other. We kept playing and good things happened.”

Jake Nugent and Dawson scored underneath in the opening minute of the third, stretching the Skiers’ advantage to 22. Nugent scored six in the quarter, including two on an acrobatic put-back as he was falling backward.

“The offense was so much better and so balanced,” Ketchum said. “The kids were so much more confident, inside and out. … It seemed like very time we made a mistake we didn’t hang our heads, we went and made something happen on defense. This team scored 66 points last night. To hold them to [31] is a good deed.”

Dawson scored twice in transition off crisp passes from Morehead early in the fourth as Aspen continued to pull away. The duo joined the rest of the starting lineup on the bench for much of the quarter.

Dawson finished with 16, Nugent scored 13 and Schwartz pitched in with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Isaac Fisher’s 11 led the Bulldogs (7-13).

“It feels like we took a step forward,” Ketchum said. “It’s going to get extremely tough from here. Everybody we play from here on out has beaten us. Every game, in my view, is going to be incredibly close.”

Added Morehead: “If we play like we can, we can go far.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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