Hoops: Aspen cruises in state opener
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – After a dominating home performance Friday night, the Aspen boys basketball team is one step away from securing its spot in next week’s Great 8 in Fort Collins.
One big step.
The seventh-seeded Skiers were in command throughout in their 3A state tournament opener with No. 26 Lake County. Aspen flustered the Panthers with suffocating defense, surrendered just nine first-half points and rode the hot shooting of Clayton Crawford to a 66-28 victory.
Next up is a Sweet 16 showdown at 1 p.m. Saturday with No. 10 Holy Family, which dispatched No. 23 The Classical Academy, 69-54, in earlier action Friday. The Tigers finished fourth in the highly competitive Metro conference, which produced five of the state tournament’s top 12 seeds, including No. 1 Faith Christian.
“I was proud of everybody’s effort tonight and I really have no complaints, but tomorrow will be a different story,” Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum admitted. “We’ll have to play our best game of the year.”
The Skiers clearly did not look past Lake County. They were efficient on both sides of the ball from the outset. Quinn Morehead picked off a pass and scored in the opening minute, sparking a 10-0 spurt in which four different players scored.
The Panthers (13-10) called two timeouts in the game’s first five minutes to try and quell the onslaught, but they could muster just one field goal in the first – a transition basket from John Herron – against the Skiers’ aggressive man-to-man defense.
“I’m glad we came out and started well. We really used to struggle with that,” Crawford said.
Aspen stretched its advantage to 20 in the second quarter. Crawford led the way, scoring 11 of his game-high 18 in the first 16 minutes. He was active on the offensive glass, scored in transition and hit seven of eight from the free throw line in the opening half.
“I’ve been putting a little extra time into my shot during the week because the last couple games haven’t been quite what I wanted,” the sophomore said. “I felt good. I was confident and a little motivated, too.”
The Skiers effectively put this game out of reach with an 8-2 run to open the third quarter. Their lead ballooned to as much as 40 down the stretch thanks in part to impressive bench play.
Quinn Morehead finished with eight points while Austin Roark and Jake Nugent each pitched in with seven for Aspen, which now is 19-4.
Notching a 20th victory today will be a tall task.
“We came out with some good defensive intensity tonight, but I hope we play harder and better tomorrow,” Ketchum said. “(Holy Family) is really talented and really deep – they go 10 to 12 deep, and their second five looks like their first five. That’s impressive. They play really, really hard and really smart.
“I hope these guys realize they’re only 32 minutes away from the big dance. They can’t hold anything back and can’t have any regrets. It’s all or nothing. All or nothing.”
• No. 20 La Junta 61, No. 13 Roaring Fork 54
• No. 12 Jefferson Academy 42, No. 21 Coal Ridge 35
• No. 8 Pinnacle 73, No. 25 Rifle 48
• No. 6 Pagosa Springs 60, No. 27 Olathe 48
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Under bluebird skies with 160 acres under their boots, hundreds of skiers and snowboarders took to Aspen Mountain for opening day Wednesday.