Late dramatics lift Aspen over Olathe
If the Aspen High boys are to make a 3A playoff basketball run this season, they should formulate their game plan on one rule: Get the ball to No. 44.Sophomore forward Cory Parker scored five points in the final 41 seconds of Tuesday’s 3A Western Slope district playoff game. His go-ahead free throw helped lift the Skiers to a dramatic 46-45 victory.”I love the pressure,” said Parker, who led the Skiers with 20 points. “I knew we needed one, so I went right for the basket.” Parker hung back as Aspen brought the ball up the floor, and found himself wide open at the top of the key. He took the pass and let go a 3-pointer. It bounced off the backboard and fell through the net, cutting the Pirates lead to one. After eight seconds of full-court pressure, Aspen fouled Olathe senior Jake Perkins, sending him to the line for a one-and-one. Perkins, who scored 18 in the game and was 80 percent from the line heading into the fourth, missed the first. Senior guard Luke Gosda pushed the ball up the floor after Aspen rebounded, and looked for Parker.”He’s turned into the smartest player in the league during those last 30 seconds,” Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum said of Gosda. “Even with the pressure, he had the presence of mind to run a pick-and-roll with his money man. He looked for the right guy.” Gosda took a screen from Parker from left of the key. When Parker opened to the basket, Gosda delivered a pass through three Pirates defenders. Parker went up strong, drawing the foul.
Parker, seemingly unfazed, sunk the first, tying the game at 45. Pirates head coach Vic Kintz called a 30-second timeout. Ketchum told his players to hustle back on defense in case of a miss.Parker hit his second shot. Olathe desperately tried to spring Perkins lose for an open jumper but could not. Senior Shayne Christianson’s wild attempt bounced harmlessly off the glass, into the waiting hands of senior Jyace Stutsman, who pulled down the most important of his nine rebounds to seal the win. “I’m so proud of these guys,” Ketchum said. “Even when we had our doubts at the end of the third and start of the fourth, the guys never ever quit. They never gave up.”Aspen trailed at halftime and did not take its first lead until the waning seconds of the third quarter when Eric Sciarrone picked off a pass and scored in transition. It was short-lived, however, as Perkins was fouled on his 3-point attempt with .1 seconds remaining, and calmly sank all three to put Olathe ahead, 33-32. Aspen had scored just six points in the entire second half. Gosda had reason to worry in the fourth. “In the fourth, I was looking at the clock and said, ‘I can’t believe this is ending,’ and I wanted to pass out” he said.Gosda would not let his team lose. He scored five of his nine points on back-to-back possessions three minutes into the fourth to pull Aspen to within four of the lead. He dished out seven assists, while turning the ball over just three times. Fellow senior Tucker Helmus also pitched in nine points.
With the game and his final season on the line, Gosda made his most important and crisp pass of the game. Parker added the exclamation point, and the defense held on, guaranteeing the Skiers at least three more games. They face No. 1 seed Roaring Fork on Friday night.”There is no doubt he’s clutch,” Gosda said of Parker.Skiers girls fall short in CedaredgeAspen High girls basketball coach Dave Conarroe thought he had seen it all. However, as he watched the final 30 seconds of the third quarter of Tuesday’s 3A Western Slope district playoff game against Cedaredge unfold, he could do nothing but shake his head. His team committed seven straight fouls without having one possession. The Bruins finished the quarter on a 9-0 run and hung on for the 50-45 win.””We went out almost in a blaze of glory,” Conarroe said. “But a couple weird things happened. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was sort of like going into the Twilight Zone.”
Aspen led by seven with less than one minute remaining in the third and was a made three away from taking a double-digit lead. Following the miss, however, the fouls slowed the game’s pace and caused the Skiers’ lead to evaporate. Cedaredge was strong on the offensive boards, controlling missed free throws, Conarroe said. Three of Cedaredge’s nine points came from behind the arc, and six came from the line.”We had the ball and were up seven. If we hit that three, we would’ve had them on the ropes,” Conarroe said. ‘It was bad timing.”Adding to Aspen’s struggles on the defensive boards was the loss of 5-foot-9 junior Reghan Mahaffey, who suffered a concussion after colliding with a brick wall while battling for a lose ball in the game’s first 30 seconds. An ambulance took Mahaffey to the hospital, where she received a CAT scan and X-rays. She was released from the hospital shortly thereafter. While Aspen was decidedly smaller in her absence, Conarroe said his team responded well after Mahaffey’s abrupt exit. Senior Carly Rosen scored 21 points on the strength of six 3-pointers. Sophomore Julia Hassall added 11 for the Skiers (6-14).The Skiers trailed by three with 30 seconds remaining but could not convert an open look from behind the arc. They had to foul.”We made them scramble,” Conarroe said. “We laid it all out on the floor and came up a little short, and that hurts more than if we got buried. We know we had a chance in the game the whole way. We played our best game of the year.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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