Skier boys reach top of the Slope
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” One possession, one drive, one timely pass and one season-defining dunk.
In what felt like a 15-round fight Tuesday night at Aspen High School, the Skiers’ two senior big men ” Cory Parker and Michael Taylor” teamed up in the final seconds to deliver the knockout blow to the 3A Western Slope’s defending champs. The four-year reign of the Roaring Fork Rams came to an end on a Parker-to-Taylor pick-and-roll that was all instinct, according to Parker, and completely demoralizing or exhilarating ” depending on which set of bleachers you were sitting in.
“I don’t even have words for that,” said a wide-eyed Taylor of his slam that gave Aspen a 38-36 win. ” That’s one of the most indescribable feelings. Right now I’m on emotional overload. Part of me doesn’t believe it. It’s insane.”
Taylor’s dunk gave Aspen its league-best 13th victory, prolonging a perfect run through the Slope that will be put on the line again Friday when the Skiers close out the regular season against Cedaredge.
Roaring Fork, despite an upset loss Saturday to Cedaredge that all but assured the Skiers the league title, refused to go quietly.
Down five in the fourth quarter, the Rams chipped away with free throws to pull to within three points with 1:55 remaining.
Six- foot- 8 Rams’ senior Torrey Udall then buried his second 3-pointer of the night to tie the game at 34, before Parker answered with a slicing drive for two.
With 45 seconds remaining, Roaring Fork’s Matthias Weissl sank a jumper with two Skiers in his face to knot the game again at 36.
Aspen called a timeout with 10.8 seconds left on the clock to set up its final shot. The plan was for Parker to drive and take the last shot, hoping for a foul or the basket. As Parker rolled off a screen Taylor set at the top of the key for him, however, two Roaring Fork defenders collapsed on him, leaving Taylor wide open underneath the basket.
“Coach just told us the game is in your hands,” Parker said, “and I saw him at the last second. It was awesome.”
“Part of me was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m this open,'” Taylor added. “They did what they were supposed to do. They saw Cory drive and, number one, you’ve got to stop the ball.”
After Taylor’s dunk, Udall fired a desperation shot at the buzzer that missed before a mob of Aspen students stormed the floor.
In defeat, Rams’ coach Roger Walters applauded Aspen for being one possession better in a tense defensive struggle in which each team held the lead five different times.
“I think everybody got their money’s worth, and that was really fun,” said Walters, whose team fell to 14-4 overall and 10-3 in the Slope. “I thought Aspen played great, I thought we played great and that’s what high school basketball is all about. It’s just one of those things. Our kids played their hearts out, as did Aspen, and they made a great play at the end.”
The respective stars on both teams struggled on a night where every possession mattered.
Udall and Weissl both finished with just nine points, well below their season averages. Udall, hounded all night by Aspen defenders, didn’t even score his first points from the floor until the third quarter and had just one field goal to go with two 3-pointers and a free throw.
With Aspen defenders tying up Udall and Weissl, Roaring Fork’s Alex Hernandez and Walker Abrahamovich stepped up. Abrahamovich sank two 3-pointers to finish with seven points and Hernandez added five.
“It was basically a triangle and two on us where they’re doubling Matthias and faceguarding Torrey,” Walters said of Aspen’s defensive strategy. “It was hard to get in any rhythm offensively, but our other kids stepped up and did a nice job.”
Parker, like Udall, found himself under siege in the lane all night. He finished with 19 points, 15 of which came off three 3-pointers and six free throws.
Taylor, after scoring the game’s first points on a dunk in the lane, was held in check until the fourth quarter, finishing with 12 points.
Both teams managed only eight points apiece in the first quarter, and Roaring Fork entered the locker room at the half leading, 15-13.
Keyed by Udall’s first 3-pointer, the Rams opened the third quarter with a 73 run before Aspen’s Andrew Papenfus sank a 3 to pull the Skiers back to within three.
Down one entering the fourth quarter, Aspen went on a 7-2 run from there before Roaring Fork surged back to tie the game twice in the final two minutes.
“In the second half, we just told the kids to just keep cutting,” Ketchum said. “We started having more success as soon as we started moving quicker and distributing the ball more. … We played their game and we didn’t get a lot of turnovers out of our press, but we got two or three, and at the end, maybe that made a difference.”
While Tuesday’s win marked a changing of the guard in the 3A Western Slope, Ketchum said it means nothing if Aspen (162, 13-0) is unable to win a district title, where it’s possible it will face Roaring Fork again.
“After we beat them the first time at their place, I feel like we got on the mountain with them,” Ketchum said. “After tonight, I feel like we’re standing at the top with them. The district championship game will be if we can push them off the mountain or not.”
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