Skiers hold off Longhorns to advance
Aspen Times Staff Writer
They used to be dramatic finishes.
But second-half self-destruction and nail-biting endings have become so commonplace in Aspen High boys basketball that anything less would be shocking.
And with Basalt in town for the first round of the district playoffs Tuesday night, Aspen would not disappoint.
In typical fashion, the Skiers nearly blew a 20-point lead in the final 10 minutes of the game ” allowing Basalt to come within two ” before escaping with a 45-41 victory.
“I’m proud of my kids, they really responded,” Aspen coach Steve Ketchum said.
With the Skiers dominating Basalt most of the game and up 35-15 with a little more than two minutes to play in the third quarter, Ketchum said he gave his kids some key advice.
“Let’s throw the ball away as much as possible to make things interesting,” Ketchum said he told his team.
Of course he was joking, but the way Aspen played in the fourth quarter, it seemed entirely possible that the seasoned coach had told his players just that.
For three quarters, Aspen dominated Basalt with a stifling defense and an unstoppable offense led by Moss Schermerhorn’s team-best 14 points, which included a slam dunk in the first half.
But the Longhorns never quit, giving Aspen a serious scare en route to a potentially embarrassing Skiers loss.
“You’ve got to give Basalt a lot of credit,” Ketchum said. “Their kids played so hard.”
Aspen led 11-5 at the end of the first quarter and had a commanding 25-11 at the half. Going into the fourth quarter, Aspen was ahead 37-22.
Slowly but steadily, however, Aspen fell apart in the fourth quarter as Basalt capitalized on numerous forced turnovers to slash the Skiers’ lead to four points with just under two minutes to play.
“They made life miserable for us,” Ketchum said.
Basalt’s Cody Burkholder sunk a pair of fourth-quarter three pointers, and with a minute left the score was suddenly 43-41. Burkholder scored a game-high 19 points.
“He’s a super talent, you can’t stop him,” Ketchum said.
With 18 seconds left, Basalt had the ball down by only two, and a final game-tying, or winning, shot loomed.
But, like he did all night, Schermerhorn stole the show.
The 6-foot-6 senior stole a Longhorn pass with 15 seconds remaining, and after a series of fouls, sunk two free throws to cement an Aspen victory.
“Moss had a great game,” Ketchum said. “He did a wonderful job for us.”
Last night’s victory propelled Aspen into the regional tournament, which begins March 6.
Aspen faces the winner of the Eagle Valley-Hotckiss match-up Thursday night in Rifle in the semifinals of the district tournament.
The Aspen High girls team lost to Eagle Valley Tuesday night on the road. They will play again Friday, in the district tournament’s consolation bracket.
Let’s make some skiing predictions. I made my X Games snowboarding predictions a day earlier and remain only mildly lukewarm in terms of confidence, but maybe I’ll feel better about the skiers.