Hoops: Aspen girls top Bruins | AspenTimes.com
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Hoops: Aspen girls top Bruins

Jon MaletzThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

ASPEN Finally, something worth celebrating.During the last two and a half months, through blowouts and excruciating defeats, tears and frustration, the Skiers girls basketball team hoped and searched for an elusive victory. After 15 consecutive losses – a streak dating back to Dec. 6 – Aspen tasted success Friday. The Skiers made this senior night one to remember, jumping out to a 15-4 lead after one quarter against Cedaredge and taking a 15-point lead into the break. And, in the team’s final home game, it withstood a late Bruins rally to prevail, 41-31.”It’s so sweet to get a win for these seniors and to go out with a win,” Skiers head coach Jeremy Haack said. “The girls played with a lot of confidence and heart, just like they have been all season.”

Aspen played inspired basketball right from the opening tip Friday, overwhelming the Bruins with patience on offense that generated multiple strong scoring opportunities, plus success from the foul line. Grace Seigle, one of the Skiers’ four seniors (Julia Hassall, Kerri Kimmel and Sally Meyer), opened with a 3-pointer from the wing, sparking a 9-2 run in the game’s first five minutes. Aspen (4-15 overall, 1-13 3A Western Slope) closed the quarter with six straight points, four coming from the line. The Skiers missed just three of its 10 free throw attempts in the opening quarter.”We all just really tried hard,” Hassall said. “The team played well together, and we were ready to play.”The hot start was hardly an anomaly. Hassall shook free on an in-bounds play three minutes into the second and sank a 10-footer from the corner. Later, she hit back-to-back 3’s to stretch the lead to 17. Twelve of the guard’s team- and game-high 19 points came in the first 16 minutes. Kimmel kept Aspen’s momentum going in the opening minute of the third when, after teammate Lindsey Anderson pulled down an offensive board and passed off to her, she finished off the glass.Nikki Lindley pulled Cedaredge to within 11 when she controlled an offensive rebound and went back up for the finish with two minutes to play. Hassall and junior guard Kylie Westerlind countered with consecutive finishes in the paint to extend the lead. The Skiers took a 14-point lead into the final quarter.

“After the last few [games], you’ve got to wait until the buzzer sounds [to exhale],” Haack said.Aspen led Coal Ridge by 13 points heading into the fourth Feb. 15 only to fall, 39-38, on a last-second bucket. It looked as though the Skiers were headed toward a similarly nerve-racking conclusion Friday after Bruins sophomore Caitlin Walker finished underneath and Lindley followed with a 3 from the wing, cutting the Skiers’ advantage to nine with 3:20 remaining. After Hassall hit two free throws one minute later, Cedaredge called a timeout.”I told them [during the stoppage], ‘If you’re going to win this, it’s on you guys, not me,'” Haack said. “I wanted to see them pull it out. … I have all the confidence in these girls.”The Skiers rewarded their coach’s confidence in the waning minutes from the free throw line. Anderson went 1-of-2, then Seigle drained both of her attempts with 22.8 seconds remaining to extend the lead to 13. Aspen shot 64 percent (14-of-22) from the line in the game.Rachelle Litsheim nailed a 3 to cut the Skiers’ lead to 10 with 15 seconds remaining, but Cedaredge could pull no closer. Hassall dribbled uncontested near midcourt as the seconds ticked off and the crowd rose to its feet to celebrate Aspen’s long-awaited first league victory.

“This definitely gave us a little relief,” Hassall said. “This definitely does make the season worth it.”The Skiers likely will open district play Tuesday night at Basalt; The Longhorns held a two-game lead in the race for the conference’s best record heading into Friday’s game at Hotchkiss.Hassall said Aspen is looking forward to playing Basalt for a third time, saying, “We can surprise a lot of people.” She suggested her coach shares that sentiment; Haack apparently told his team after Friday’s game he was making reservations for Palisade, site of the district tournament’s later rounds.”You can quote Julia on that one,” Haack joked.jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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