‘Horns perfect so far | AspenTimes.com

‘Horns perfect so far

Mark Fox/The Aspen Times Basalt High's Duncan McDaniel drives to the basket during action against Rifle Thursday, Dec 1, 2005 in Basalt.

Basalt girls basketball coach Carolyn Compton was tugging at the sleeves of her sweater. The Longhorns bench was standing as the seconds ticked off the clock in the fourth quarter of their season opener against Rifle.

Despite their best efforts to distance themselves from the Bears with a late run to end the first half, Rifle found itself within one possession of a tie ” or the lead.

Basalt didn’t need to worry. The Longhorns had sophomore Dayne Toney on the court. Toney, an all-conference honorable-mention volleyball player this fall, came up big at the net once again, leading the Longhorns to a 56-54 victory.

“I talked to her at halftime,” Compton said. “I told her she earned her spot to be here and to be more aggressive.”

Toney responded when her team needed her most, scoring 15 of her game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter. After the Bears pulled within one when C.J. Vasten scored on an assist from guard Kendall Babler, Toney drove down the lane and scored on the ensuing possession. After Rifle matched Basalt once again on its next time down the court, Toney again found some space in the lane and pulled up for the short jumper, giving the Longhorns a 41-38 advantage.

As time wore on and Rifle switched to a full-court press in an attempt to force some turnovers, Toney slipped behind the defense for two lay-ins under the hoop. When she was fouled and went to the line, Toney took advantage. She was 5-for-6 in the fourth quarter and 8-for-9 in the game.

“Coach said I was lacking confidence and after the first half, I was feeling down,” Toney said. “She gave me confidence. I was a little nervous, but it was fun out there.”

Toney’s final basket of the night stretched Basalt’s advantage to two possessions at 56-52 with less than 20 seconds remaining. Babler, after being fouled on a drive to the hoop, sank both free throws to cut the lead in half with 3.7 seconds remaining.

On Basalt’s next possession, the Rifle press forced a turnover near midcourt. The Bears were unable to get a shot off as time expired. Toney scored 15 of Basalt’s 19 points in the deciding quarter.

The Longhorns avoided the continuation of their misfortune against Rifle. Basalt opened the past three seasons against the Bears and fell short each time. Basalt’s last win against Rifle came on Dec. 4, 2001.

“We need to learn some patience, but they held their composure,” Compton said. “The team has worked so hard and are eager to learn.”

He may have taken off his shoulder pads and cleats, but some things never change for Basalt’s Ben Pollock.

In Thursday’s season opener with Rifle, Pollock ” the Longhorns’ standout running back ” was off and running once again. So, too, was Basalt, which cruised to the 63-41 win.

“He’s been here for four years and has a lot of experience,” Basalt head coach Michael Green said. “He did a good job tonight and had a good supporting cast around him.”

Pollock added a few more highlights to his reel, showcasing his speed, penetrating ability and court vision. The senior point guard led all players, with 23 points and seven assists. In 22 games last season, he averaged close to 13 points.

After a sluggish first quarter, Pollock assisted on or scored 12 of the Longhorns’ 18 points in the second, and all but nine points in the first two quarters. Off a steal, Pollock pushed the ball up the court, then dished to 6-foot-5 Darren Duroux for the easy lay-in. Duroux finished the game with 12 points. Basalt opened up a 27-14 halftime lead.

Pollock torched the Bears’ zone for 15 points and two assists in the second half. His consecutive 3-pointers midway through the third quarter stretched the lead to 20. By the time Rifle switched to man-to-man late in the fourth, the game had already been decided.

The Longhorns were equally impressive on defense, using their size advantage on the front line to contest every Rifle shot attempt in the lane. Duroux, Jason Troyer and Riley Eaton controlled the defensive boards and the lane as the Longhorns held Rifle to six first-quarter points.

Green’s plan to increase the defensive pressure worked as Basalt forced countless turnovers leading to 25 fast-break points.

Rifle could not keep pace.

“Our intensity and pressuring is what we’ve been working on and the kids did a fabulous job,” Green said. “We limited their opportunities and forced some turnovers. The kids are more disciplined this year and more sure of themselves. With our seniors and juniors, if we put the pieces together, the sky’s the limit for us.”

Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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