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Hoops: Third-quarter surge propels Aspen boys

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesAspen senior Bridger Dawson drives to the basket during Friday's game in Basalt.
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BASALT – Steve Ketchum and the rest of the Aspen High boys basketball coaching staff stayed out of the locker room for most of halftime Friday night. Senior Mike Schwartz and fellow Skiers player Walker Moriarty addressed the team.

“I’m not sure I want to know what was said in there, but my ears were ringing,” Ketchum joked. “I’m sure it was inspirational.”

And effective.



A seemingly re-energized Aspen squad took the floor in the third quarter, then took over the game against rival Basalt. Jake Nugent shook free in the paint and scored three times, helping spark a 16-3 run that gave the Skiers a commanding 32-17 advantage. They withstood a late Longhorns rally to pull out a 40-31 victory – their second consecutive conference road win.

“We weathered the storm and we survived,” Ketchum said. “It felt like a perfect storm there for a while. It was pretty scary.




“We’ve been living on our defense. We’ve got to get the offense clicking.”

That offense generated just one field goal and five points in the first quarter. During one stretch, Aspen was held scoreless for nearly 7 minutes.

While Basalt did not fair much better, it jumped out to an early 7-2 lead thanks in part to a steal and score in transition from Sam Morrison and a three-point play from Johnson Emerson.

Morrison nailed a jumper in the corner and Scott Riggins converted a free throw in the first minute-plus of the second quarter, pushing the home team’s advantage to six – its biggest all night.

Bridger Dawson helped the Skiers push back. The 6-foot-8 junior drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key and later took a defender off the dribble, spun and scored, squaring the game at 12 about 5 minutes before the break.

Aspen converted just three field goals in the opening half but still managed to take a 16-14 halftime lead. The Skiers’ traditionally stingy 1-3-1 defense, which held Grand Valley to 27 points Tuesday, was solid again.

The Longhorns did not help themselves, either; they missed six of eight free-throw attempts in the second quarter.

Aspen (6-6 overall, 3-3 3A Western Slope) took command in the second half. Nugent scored in transition, then Dawson hit two free throws to build the lead to six early in the third.

After Morrison picked off an errant inbound pass and scored, the Skiers responded with a 12-2 run capped by freshman Clayton Crawford’s 3 with 8 seconds to play.

“We went through one of those long stretches where we dig ourselves a hole and we’re not able to climb out of it,” Basalt head coach Jon Pettit said. “I think we’re starting to believe we can play with teams, but then we go through those spells … and get down and get sluggish. [A] 5-2 [run by the opposition] is not bad, 6-2 is not bad. But 12-2 and 14-3, that’s tough.”

The Longhorns (3-8, 0-5) mounted one last rally in a fourth quarter in which Aspen seemed content to spread the floor and stall. Blake Scherer’s 3 cut the Skiers’ lead to 10 with less than 2 minutes remaining, then Riggins cut the deficit to eight with a lay-up.

Basalt could pull no closer, dropping its fifth consecutive game.

Morrison led the Longhorns with nine points, while Scherer pitched in with eight. Dawson and Nugent paced Aspen with 10 points each.

“I’m frustrated for the boys,” said Pettit, whose squad travels to Gunnison Saturday for a 4 p.m. game. “I know they’re playing hard. I know they’re working hard. … We’ll keep working at it. We’re going to find it. We have to.”

Aspen head coach Jeremy Haack’s comments were brief in the moments after Friday’s game.

“We didn’t play well tonight,” the visibly frustrated coach said. “We know we’re better than this.”

As for rival Basalt, it likely played one of its best games this season. Jamie Matherly scored eight straight points in the opening quarter, helping stake the Longhorns to a 16-4 lead after 8 minutes. Teammates Stephanie Alvarado and Emmalee Erickson dominated down low all night, and Basalt was never tested in a 47-32 win.

“The key for us is playing team basketball,” Longhorns head coach Lauren Redfern said. “The shots they were taking were high percentage shots, and they were just making the extra pass. … It felt good to see them go to work.”

Especially in the paint. Alvarado and Erickson controlled the offensive glass in the opening half, combining for 14 points.

The duo scored three consecutive baskets in the first few minutes of the third quarter, helping Basalt build on its 22-10 halftime lead.

Bailey Everhart helped the Skiers stay within striking distance, scoring nine of her game-high 18 points in the third quarter. Her three-point play with 2:28 remaining helped trim her team’s deficit to 10.

The Longhorns (4-5, 2-3) had an answer, however. They closed the quarter with a 7-0 spurt – Matherly hit a 3 in the corner and Alvarado hit a runner and scored underneath – to take a commanding 38-21 lead into the fourth.

“We missed 15 free throws and didn’t get after it defensively. That’s about it,” Haack said. “They’ve got good size, but we’ve got to do a better job defending down low.”

Aspen (3-8, 2-4) momentarily pulled to within 10 after opening the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run. Redfern called a timeout to calm her players, and Basalt responded with good ball handling and solid play down the stretch.

Alvarado finished with 16, while Matherly and Erickson pitched in with 14 and 12, respectively. The trio scored their team’s first 40 points.

The Longhorns visit Gunnison at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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