Second-half surge propels Aspen boys to victory
The Aspen Times
The Skiers pumped up the volume in the second half.
They also pumped up the offense and the defense.
The Aspen High School boys basketball team, ranked No. 4 in the state in Class 3A, broke open a close game with a second-half surge to defeat visiting Grand Valley 61-46 on Tuesday night at the AHS gym.
Facing the top 3-point shooting team in the Western Slope League, the Skiers turned the tables with a 3-point barrage of their own — five in all in the second half when Aspen outscored Grand Valley 37-24.
The 3-point parade started 3 minutes into the third quarter when junior Evan Patzoldt hit the second of his four 3-pointers. His basket regained the lead for the Skiers at 27-26 — a lead they would not relinquish.
Patzoldt hit another 3-pointer on Aspen’s next possession, helping the Skiers inch away to a 39-34 lead entering the fourth quarter.
That’s when the Aspen offense pumped up the home crowd with a stunning 22-point explosion, helped by 3-pointers from senior Trent Lichtenwalter and another 3 by Patzoldt.
“We had a great second half,” Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum said. “We played a lot better. Defensively, we did a much better job on No. 5 (Sam Parker) and No. 21 (John Parker), their two big guns.”
Sam Parker, the son of head coach Scott Parker, kept the Cardinals in the game with 14 first-half points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
“Then, we got our offense going, and we started scoring. That was fun for everyone,” Ketchum said.
Lichtenwalter closed the third quarter with back-to-back baskets on the interior with assists from Levi Wright and Dominick Alcorta.
Lichtenwalter went outside to drain a long 3 from the top of the key early in the fourth quarter as the Skiers pushed the lead beyond 10 points.
Lichtenwalter led the Skiers with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Patzoldt added 16 points, and senior Clayton Crawford scored 14 to go along with eight rebounds as the Aspen boys improved to 9-2 overall and a perfect 8-0 in the Western Slope League.
They are No. 4 in Class 3A in the latest coloradopreps.com poll.
“The biggest problem we had early was we couldn’t score,” Ketchum said. “We were missing layups and missing free throws.”
And Sam Parker wasn’t missing anything.
After scoring 14 points in the first two quarters, the Grand Valley junior finished with a game-high 23 points, including one 3-pointer from well beyond NBA range.
Alcorta, assigned the task of guarding Sam Parker for much of the game, also hit a 3-pointer for Aspen. He finished with nine points.
Tyler Scott added 14 points for the Cardinals, who slipped to 6-6 overall, 5-4 in league play.
Sophomore John Parker was held scoreless by the various Aspen defenses, which included a triangle-and-2 combination of zone and man-to-man as well as the Skiers’ conventional man-to-man defense.
Grand Valley had hit 12 3-pointers against the Skiers earlier this season when Aspen pulled out a 69-66 win at Grand Valley (Parachute).
“We had a really good game plan, and we really did a good job in the second half,” Ketchum said, adding that the Skiers avoided their usual turnover problem against a quality Grand Valley team.
The Skiers had a season-low 12 turnovers Tuesday night.
“That’s a huge win for us,” he said. “They are a good team.”
He said the Skiers also played a much smarter game in the third and fourth quarters.
“The kids elevated their basketball IQ in the second half. I was really proud of them,” the veteran Aspen coach said.
The Skiers will play at Basalt on Friday night.
In the girls varsity game Tuesday, Grand Valley protected its Western Slope League lead with a 63-13 victory over Aspen.
Four Cardinals scored in double figures, led by Kyra Chenoweth with 12. Ashlynn Speakman scored 11. Jordan Scott and Haley Johnson scored 10 each as the Cardinals improved to 8-1 in league, 9-3 overall.
Aspen was led by four points from McKenna Woodrow, three from Claire O’Sullivan, and two each from Mary Landis, Zara Iacono and Olivia Crawford.
Aspen is 0-11, 0-8 in conference.
The Skiers will take on winless Basalt on Friday.
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For Basalt, one of the preseason frontrunners in the Western Slope League, Friday’s loss puts its playoff hopes in jeopardy, while Aspen’s loss to the Bulldogs all but eliminates it from postseason contention.