Late rally lifts Aspen boys in Palisade |

Late rally lifts Aspen boys in Palisade

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

PALISADE, Colo. – This is what the Aspen boys basketball team needed.

After winning the season’s first six games with relative ease, the Skiers took a step up in competition Tuesday night. They were up to the challenge against 4A Palisade.

Aspen squandered an early lead and trailed by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter, but came up with some key baskets and defensive stops down the stretch to escape with a 65-61 win.

“It gave the fans a lot of excitement, but also some indigestion. It gave us coaches some gray hairs,” Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum joked. “We needed this. … [Top-ranked] Faith Christian is chomping at the bit waiting for us.”

Aspen looked like it would cruise early after pulling ahead 14-2, Ketchum said.

“It was one of the best first quarters we played all season,” he added. “There was phenomenal energy and we were clicking on all cylinders.”

Things took a drastic turn, however, as the Skiers’ eight-point halftime lead was erased during a lackluster third quarter.

“Our offensive game slowed down, and they kept hitting a bunch of 3’s from all over – everyone cashed in,” said Aspen point guard Matthew Holmes, who finished with eight points, six rebounds and six assists. “Everyone kept their composure, and we made a bunch of plays [down the stretch].”

Andrew Papenfus helped key the late rally when he nailed a 3 with a hand in his face, then came away with a steal on the ensuing possession. He finished with a team-high 16 points.

Zach Babich, who was coming off an 18-point, eight-rebound performance Saturday in Gunnison, scored 13.

“That was about the best 41⁄2 minutes I’ve ever seen us play in Aspen,” Ketchum said of the end of the fourth quarter. “I credit Palisade. They were so well coached … and could’ve easily won had we not turned it on.

“Somehow, the guys turned it on when we needed it most.”

Added Holmes: “We don’t get that much competition in the [3A Western Slope]. It’s always good to prepare for everything down the road with a good game like this.”

The Skiers travel to Carbondale on Friday to take on Roaring Fork at 7 p.m. Three of their next four games are against teams with a combined five wins.

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