Late rally lifts Basalt over Aspen |

Late rally lifts Basalt over Aspen

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

ASPEN ” Aspen was eager for its shot at redemption.

While the Skiers played well in their second go-round with rival Basalt on Thursday night at Aspen High School, the result still stings.

Longhorns forward Craig Riggins tied the game at one with a goal in the 68th minute, then Marshall Cleveland followed suit just three minutes later, scoring on a free kick that bounded untouched into the net. The late surge helped Basalt erase an early deficit and snatch a 2-1 victory from an Aspen squad that controlled play throughout, repeatedly pressured the Longhorns’ net and watched hopelessly as multiple shots drilled the crossbar and both posts.

“I think this was a game that everyone was looking forward to, and I don’t think it was a game we should’ve lost,” Skiers head coach Junior Sutherland said. “We were the better team, and the kids battled hard. I feel bad for them because they wanted it and it didn’t work out.”

Both Sutherland and his players admitted they were embarassed walking off the field after Sept. 16’s 9-2 loss. Eager to prove that lopsided result was an anomaly, Aspen (6-4-1 overall, 4-3-1 3A Region 7) was both animated and intense at the onset Thursday night.

The mood was tempered, however, after defender Ryan Dunn collided with Riggins in the fifth minute and fell hard to the turf. Dunn was taken off in an ambulance after an apparent concussion and the game was delayed for more than 20 minutes.

The Skiers rallied around their fallen teammate, continuing to challenge the Basalt defense after play resumed. The pressure paid off when, in the 12th minute, Dillon Travers crossed to a streaking Jesus Meza up the left side for the game’s first score. Meza beat a defender and fired a strong shot past Longhorns goalkeeper Scott Riggins.

Less than three minutes later, Kyle Lusk tracked down a loose ball in the box and briefly collided with Riggins before finding the net for an apparent score. But, after a brief discussion, referees determined Riggins had possession and the ensuing collision shook the ball free and called off the goal.

“I was really mad about that,” Lusk said. “We definitely controlled most of the game. … We were trying to play our hearts out. This game meant more than anything. We just got unlucky.”

Travers fired between two defenders from the top of the box but hit the left post in the 20th minute. Later, teammate Will Bloemsma vied for a score when he uncorked a shot from right of the box that Riggins managed to deflect over the crossbar after leaping with both arms outstretched.

The Skiers had to settle for a one-goal advantage after 40 minutes.

“We had them on the ropes for the entire first half,” Sutherland said. “It easily could’ve been two or three. … One’s never enough against Basalt.”

The close calls continued early in the second half. Aspen defender Kelly Selby hit the crossbar from 40 yards out on a free kick in the 42nd minute. Selby and the Skiers hit the crossbar twice more in the half.

The Longhorns (6-2-3, 5-0-3) generated some good looks of their own. Austin Long sprinted past a defender on a run up the right side in the 48th minute but hesitated for a brief moment, allowing Aspen goalkeeper Alex Owen to charge, dive and smother the ball.

Owen turned away an open shot from David Gruenefeldt 12 minutes later. He was not as fortunate in the 68th minute.

After his shot was turned away by a well-timed Selby slide tackle, Riggins stayed with the play. When the Skiers failed to clear, Riggins gathered the loose ball and scored from left of the net.

Cleveland converted an unlikely game winner shortly after. His free kick from about 30 yards out sailed into the box, bounced off the turf in between a crowd of players and sailed into the top right corner.

“I was actually aiming for Austin [Johnson] ” I guess it was miscommunication for the goalie and the defenders,” Marshall said. “I’ll take a goal whether it’s pretty or ugly. … We started off slow but got into the groove and started hitting harder and harder.”

“I have no idea [what happened],” Sutherland added. “Alex must’ve lost it in the lights. It’s a bad goal to lose the game on from our perspective. For them, it was a great goal to win a game.”

Selby bid for the equalizer little more than four minutes later, but his shot from 40 yards out again hit the crossbar. An Aspen player controlled the rebound, but his shot hit Riggins squarely in the chest.

“That just shows the kind of luck we were having tonight,” Sutherland said. “How many crossbars can you hit?”

“We were a little flat. … They got the first quick one, but we didn’t get down,” Basalt head coach John McDermott added. “They played well. We knew they were going to come after us.”

The Longhorns visit Coal Ridge on Saturday, the same day Aspen heads to Hotchkiss. The Skiers will look to rebound after consecutive one-goal home losses.

“It’s tough to play this hard and walk away with nothing,” Sutherland said.

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