Skiers girls lose heartbreaker
For the Skiers girls, the final 1 minute, 19 seconds of Saturday’s home basketball game with 4A Eagle Valley must’ve felt like a lifetime.Aspen led by eight as they watched star junior Julia Hassall, who scored 28, take a seat on the bench after fouling out. The Devils proceeded to whittle away the deficit, then complete the improbable comeback. Eagle’s Jamie Mann got loose under the hoop and sank the lay-up with less than five second left to seal the 47-46 victory.”I’ve never seen anything like that before,” said first-year Aspen head coach Jeremy Haack. “The girls are in shock.”Hassall was whistled for her fifth foul under the basket with 1:19 to play and walked to the bench amidst a loud roar and a few standing ovations from the Skiers faithful. Even she admitted she thought the lead was safe. No one could’ve foreseen what transpired next: Eagle Valley junior Elena Hernandez found some open space at the top of the key and buried a 3-pointer to cut the lead to five. On the ensuing possession, Aspen senior Reghan Mahaffey was whistled for traveling with 54 seconds remaining.Devils forward Jeanette Baker immediately drove into the middle of the Skiers defense and buried a short jumper, scoring two of her team-high 14 points. Eagle Valley immediately fouled Grace Seigle with 35 seconds remaining. The junior strolled to the line and sank one of two to give the Skiers a two possession advantage, 46-42.Hernandez burned the Skiers 11 seconds later with another 3-pointer from the corner. Hernandez, who scored 13 on the night, sealed the game with a crucial pass in the waning seconds.The Eagle Valley guard picked off a lazy Skiers pass on the ensuing possession, dribbled up court and eyed Mann, who had slipped behind the Skiers defense. Hernandez fired a perfect pass to Mann, who paused briefly before laying the ball off the glass and in.Hassall, who had guided her team all game by scoring nearly 61 percent of her team’s points – including nine in the first three minutes of the fourth – could only watch.”I was going crazy,” she said. “I felt bad. I was a big part of the team tonight, and I feel like I let them down.”For nearly 31 minutes, Hassall could not be stopped. She was the first to put Aspen on the board with 6:30 to play in the first on a 3-point jumper from the corner. She continued to frustrate the Devils defense, using her speed and ball handling to help the Skiers create odd-man opportunities in transition. In the half-court, she made a habit of splitting defenders and applying pressure on the defense on drives to the basket. She had 12 points in the first half. “She’s a player. She’s got a lot of heart,” Haack said. “That’s the kind of girl anyone would want leading their team.”Without Hassall’s calm demeanor and steady handling in the backfield during the game’s waning seconds, Aspen unraveled. The Skiers took three desperation shot attempts during their final possession, but time expired before they could get one to fall.For a second straight night – Aspen dropped Friday’s season opener to Grand Valley in overtime – the Skiers came up short.”I told them we fought too hard to lose this game,” Haack said. “We need to take better care of the ball. We’ll learn from these two games.”Skiers boys fall to Grand ValleyAspen junior Cory Parker finished with 30 points in Saturday night’s contest with 2A Grand Valley. The two 3-point attempts he missed in the final seconds, however, are the ones he’ll remember most.The Skiers erased a double-digit second half deficit against the scrappy Cardinals, but their comeback attempt fell short. Aspen, which won it’s tournament opener Friday against 4A Eagle Valley, lost 77-70.Aspen, which battled from behind all game, trailed by nine heading into the game’s final eight minutes. They opened with a barrage of 3-pointers to tighten the game. Parker opened with an NBA three from the top of the key on the quarter’s first possession to pull the Skiers to within four at 53-49. Following a Cardinals miss, Parker again pulled up for three to cut the deficit to one. After Grand Valley junior Tyler Jensen answered with a mid-range jumper – two of his 28 points – Aspen senior Michael Holmes buried a three to tie the game at 55. Parker added another three to give Aspen the lead and force the Cardinals to call a time out with 5:47 to play.The two teams traded buckets the rest of the way – they were tied six times during the fourth. But, with less than a minute to play, Grand Valley took over. Cardinals senior Mitch Belden shook off a defender down low and scored. Grand Valley then forced a timely turnover and converted it into a basket to pull ahead by four. Senior Sam McKinley, who managed to score 17 despite sitting out much of the second quarter with foul trouble, all-but sealed the win with 35 seconds to go. He drove past Parker, absorbed a bump and laid the ball off the glass to give the Cardinals a six-point advantage.Aspen would get no closer than four points the rest of the way.Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.
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