New dawn for girls basketball at AHS

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

Talk about the dawning of a new era.

Practice for the new edition Aspen High School girls basketball team begins before dawn.

Girls high school basketball practice.


AHS gym. 6 a.m.

“Morning practices are amazing,” said Debbie Alcorta, the veteran high school coach who took over the girls program at AHS this fall. “I personally like it. The girls like it. It makes such a huge difference.”

With a long-term plan to redevelop the entire AHS girls basketball culture, Alcorta said the morning practices have yielded high-energy, focused workouts.

“The girls come in. They work hard,” Alcorta said, adding that there are other important elements to consider. “These … are student-athletes. The student part comes first.”

After a morning workout, breakfast and a shower, she said the girls are ready for school.

“They are more alert in their classes. Then, when school is out the girls go to study hall with me or they go to weight training,” Alcorta said, adding that the players can work on their homework or class projects. If they have an issue in a specific class, Alcorta said the students can meet with the teacher right after school — instead of racing to the gym for basketball practice.

Steamboat on Friday

“We are revamping Lady Skier basketball,” said Alcorta, who led a rebuilding of the Basalt girls program that led to a string of annual state playoff appearances for the Longhorns.

She said she is pleased with the progress the Skiers have made in their morning workouts as they get ready for the season opener Friday afternoon at the annual Brenda Patch Memorial Tournament in Carbondale. The Aspen girls will play Steamboat Springs at 3 p.m. at Roaring Fork High School.

They will take on Rifle at 2 p.m. Saturday on the second day of the Brenda Patch tourney.

“Considering where we started and where we have come, the girls are doing a really good job,” Alcorta said, adding that she has been introducing a lot of new information and concepts to the core of 20 players.

Gang of 20

“I could not be happier with the girls,” she said. “We have 20 girls who want to be there, who are working hard.”

Alcorta named two captains this year to help lead the Skiers — in different ways.

Junior Marissa Buchholz is the basketball fundamentalist, Alcorta said.

Senior Megan Hanson is the hustler.

“Megan hustles all the time. She steps up. She runs to the end of the court,” Alcorta said, adding that she is always encouraging her teammates. “She talks on defense all the time.

“Marissa, as a fundamental player, is very good. She’s fundamentally sound. She does things exactly, and she continues to do that,” Alcorta said.

Alcorta said the two captains represent different aspects of basketball.

“Every team member can relate to one or the other style,” Alcorta said.

She said that on alternating days the players are in study hall or at weight training under the guidance of James Aldridge, the former Notre Dame running back and Gentleman of Aspen rugby standout.

“James tells me that the girls go in there and work very, very hard,” Alcorta said.

That’s all part of buying into the entire program, the new Aspen girls head coach said.

“The girls have been great. They are positive,” Alcorta said. “They have bought in … they want to improve this program.”

She said the team applied what they had learned in practice to the first scrimmage last weekend.

This weekend, she said, they will apply more in the tournament games at Roaring Fork High School.

Similarly, Alcorta said, the team will set goals in each outing.

“Then, when we achieve that goal, we can build on that … to the next level,” she said, adding that she is most pleased with the fact that the new generation of Aspen girls basketball players are “excited about basketball.”

“But it doesn’t happen overnight, we’ve got to build,” she said, adding that she is encouraging her players to build strong relationships with their teachers.

There will be times when the Aspen girls have to miss class for basketball trips.

“That’s why they need to work with their teachers,” Alcorta said, adding that the new girls basketball practice schedule also allows the players to spend more time with their families in the evenings.