Roaring Fork boys hang on in Basalt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
BASALT – Basalt’s Omar Lopez sped up the court and, with seconds remaining and his team trailing by two in Friday night’s game with visiting Roaring Fork, pulled up for a 3-pointer.
Rams head coach Larry Williams paused. So did the entire gym.
“Every time Omar touches the ball, you just hold your breath,” the coach said.
Williams and the Rams can exhale now.
Lopez’s desperation shot sailed long as time expired. After 32 minutes of physical and often sloppy play in the teams’ first game after the holiday break, Roaring Fork pulled out a 46-44 win, improving to 3-1 in 3A Western Slope play.
“It’s all about execution, baby,” Longhorns head coach Jon Pettit said outside the home locker room. “A couple of missed free throws, a couple missed lay-ups. … They won the loose balls and hit free throws. When you don’t do that, you usually don’t wind up on the winning end.”
Basalt (1-5 overall, 0-4 conference) seemed well positioned to pick up a first league win. Late in the third quarter, Lopez picked off a pass and scored in transition, then David Gruenefeldt hit a free throw to stretch the Longhorns’ lead to 31-25.
Momentum shifted drastically, however, after Rams guard Sam Carpenter shook free on the wing and buried a long 3 at the buzzer.
The large Roaring Fork contingent erupted. It would have plenty more to cheer about during the final eight minutes.
Carpenter connected once more from long distance two minutes into the fourth to give the Rams a 34-33 lead – their first since late in the second quarter.
Conner Morris answered back, hitting a fade-away jumper and a lay-up in succession to give Basalt a 37-34 edge.
Jake Strack-Loertscher squared the game on the ensuing possession when he absorbed a bump down low, scored off the glass and then finished a three-point play.
“It was just a good, hard-fought battle,” Williams said.
A battle that ultimately was decided on the free throw line. Roaring Fork made 11 of 18 attempts in the fourth quarter, but was 6-for-8 in the final 1 minute, 38 seconds. Clay Gross made four straight during that stretch.
Still, thanks in part to Gruenefeldt’s long 3 from the wing with 8 seconds remaining, the Longhorns had a shot. Arick Zeigel, who finished with 11 points, stepped to the foul line with 5.1 seconds to play and hit the first to give the Rams a 46-44 advantage.
The second bounced off the rim. Lopez pulled down the rebound and took off the other way.
“I got a good look,” said Lopez, who finished with 10 points. “The moment was going so fast …”
The senior had a unobstructed view of the hoop as he released the shot. The ball sailed over the net and hit the backboard as time expired.
“Any time you can come to Basalt and get a win, it’s a good feeling,” Williams said. “We made just enough [free throws] to keep it close and pull it out.”
The Longhorns will look to rebound Saturday when they visit Coal Ridge for a 4 p.m. game.
Basalt played two games decided by a total of six points and one that went to overtime right before the holiday break. There was little drama this time around.
The Longhorns jumped out to a 16-4 lead after one quarter Friday against visiting Roaring Fork. They had three players score in double figures and cruised to a 54-37 win, spoiling a 26-point effort from the Rams’ Alli Zeigel and improving to 4-0 in league play.
“The girls are working hard, and they deserve it,” first-year Basalt head coach Dane LaBlanc said.
Roaring Fork jumped out to an early lead after executing a perfect backdoor cut on the game’s opening possession. The momentum didn’t last.
The Longhorns reeled off nine straight points and closed the first quarter on a 16-2 run in which five different players scored. Nicole Booth had seven points in the first eight minutes. She finished with 12.
Zeigel finished underneath and nailed a 3 early in the second quarter as the Rams pulled to within seven. Basalt closed the half with a 7-0 spurt, one fueled by Nancy Hernandez, who came off the bench to score five points.
Roaring Fork could pull no closer than 11 points during the second half. Still, the young Rams showed some resilience in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 straight in little more than a minute to turn a laugher into a more respectable outcome.
“They always play with heart. We need to get four quarters like we played those last four minutes,” Rams head coach Nancy Zeigel said. “It was just little defensive breakdowns. Every day we’re improving.”
Mackenzie Buck scored 15 points and Jamie Matherly added 11 for the Longhorns, who visit Coal Ridge at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.