Hoops: Roaring Fork tops Aspen, claims district crown
Special to the Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado
PALISADE, Colo. – Larry Williams has seen his Roaring Fork boys basketball team score easily from inside the 3-point arc. On Saturday, the Aspen Skiers saw the Rams score easily from outside the arc, too.
Turns out that combination not only quenched the Rams’ thirst for a Class 3A Western Slope district tournament title, but it also washed away the Skiers’ hopes for a four-peat.
Daulton Handy and Dakotah Grett each scored 14 points to pace a balanced scoring attack for the Rams, who hit 9-of-17 3-point attempts and finished 20-for-34 shooting for the game in their 60-55, title-game victory at Palisade High School.
“We’ve been good inside all year,” Williams said. “The outside guys, well, they’ve go the confidence now that they know when to pull the trigger. Now it’s paying the dividends.”
The win paid dividends and then some for Roaring Fork (15-7), which had to knock off the league’s top two teams in the regular season – Aspen and Grand Valley – to win the district crown. It earned the Rams the right to host a regional round in this week’s 3A state tournament for the first time in four years and, likewise, earned them their sixth consecutive victory dating back to their 56-53 loss at Aspen on Feb. 11.
“We’re on cloud nine right now,” said Handy, who finished 3 of 4 from 3-point range. “All year long we felt like we were definitely one of the top teams in our league. I wouldn’t say this was unexpected, but we weren’t cocky going into this thinking we were definitely going to win it all.”
Handy was part of a balanced Roaring Fork attack that shot 77 percent (10 of 13) from the field in the second half, including 4 of 7 from beyond the arc. That gave the Rams enough of a cushion to prevent another comeback from Aspen, which was similar to the one the Skiers had during the previous meeting between the teams.
“I wasn’t real happy with the turnovers we had in the fourth quarter,” Roaring Fork coach Larry Williams said. “In Aspen, when that happened, we ended up losing. We made baby steps today. I think that was on the forefront of our minds when they were coming back, as if to say, ‘Oh God, here we go again.’ But you’ve got to give credit to Aspen, because … they force you to throw those bad passes.”
Bridger Dawson scored 14 of his game-high 20 points in the second half and Quinn Morehead added 10 to pace the Skiers (14-8), who nearly rallied from a 14-point deficit early in the fourth quarter. Aspen forced twice as many turnovers in the fourth quarter (six) as they did in the first half, coming within 54-53 with 1 minute, 15 seconds remaining.
“When we started the season, I would have been thrilled to just finish in the top half of our league,” Aspen coach Steve Ketchum said. “We had no starters back, no experience and most of our kids did not work hard in the offseason. We shouldn’t have been here, and the fact we were here and almost pulled it off is a tremendous credit to them.”
A steal and layup from Jake Strack Loertscher gave the Rams a 46-32 lead with just under 6 minutes left to play. But that’s when the Skiers rallied, as a 3 from the 6-foot-6 Dawson with 1:15 left capped a 22-8 Aspen run to bring the Skiers within 54-53.
Aspen, however, was forced to foul. The Rams consequently brought enough of their hot shooting to the foul line to close it out, hitting 5-of-8 attempts in the final minute.
Strack Loertscher added 11 points and Trent Reeds 10 for Roaring Fork. Mike Schwartz added nine for the Skiers, who will have to travel for their regional appearance.
State tournament pairings will be announced by the Colorado High School Activities Association late this afternoon.
Jamie Matherly finished with a game-high 14 points and a pair of 3-pointers to lead the Longhorns, who snatched the tournament’s final state tournament spot with their victory against Grand Valley.
Stephanie Alvarado added seven points for Basalt, which rallied from a one-point deficit at the end of the third quarter. Grand Valley was led by a nine-point effort from Haley Johnson and a seven-point performance from Shawnee Young and Ashlynn Speakman.
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The canceled 2020 race would have been the fourth running of the Colorado Classic, which each year has included stages in Colorado’s mountain towns before finishing with a final stage in the heart of downtown Denver. Snowmass had been scheduled to host a stage last summer for the first time.