Skiers lose a nail-biter |

Skiers lose a nail-biter

Skiers center Michael Taylor shoots and scores against a host of Olathe defenders Fridat at Aspen High School. The Pirates beat the Skiers, 45-43. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

ASPEN Aspen guard Tommy Rittenhouse saw an opening and drove to the basket.Following a missed Olathe free throw with 6.8 seconds remaining and his team down two, Rittenhouse took the outlet and looked to push. He drove to the basket, was swarmed by three Pirates defenders, and the ball was stripped. The Skiers watched hopelessly as time expired – as did their 10-game winning streak. As Aspen standout Cory Parker again sat out because of an ailing ankle, the Skiers fell, 45-43.Parker is expected to sit out today’s regular season finale when Aspen (15-3 overall, 10-2 3A Western Slope) travels to Carbondale to take on league champion Roaring Fork.”Tommy did the right thing. We told the guys that, if they made the free throw, we’d have to go for three. Otherwise, we could look to get to the basket,” Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum said. “He tried to go through three guys and was bumped, but it was tough for the refs to see. We didn’t get the call, and that’s it.”Ketchum and Rittenhouse could not have asked for a better opportunity with the Skiers trailing, 44-43. After Olathe’s Jon Spruill sank two free throws with 23 seconds remaining, Rittenhouse again looked to push. He penetrated on a pick and roll and found himself with an open look from 10 feet. The shot came up short, and the Skiers were forced to foul. Spruill, who finished with 20 points, was 6-of-8 from the line in the game’s final 3 minutes, 40 seconds.Rittenhouse led the team with 20 points and Michael Taylor added 15 for Aspen, which struggled through a lackluster first half to stay close. They trailed, 14-10, after one quarter, but managed to take the lead at 19-17 midway through the second after Taylor got loose for a lay-in from close range.

Olathe’s Wesley Byers answered back when, on the ensuing possession, he buried a 3-pointer from the wing. Teammate Gami Arreola drove past a defender and finished off the glass, and the Pirates took a 22-19 lead at halftime. Arreola finished with 11 points.The two teams exchanged leads four times during the third quarter. Taylor, who scored eight in the quarter, drained two free throws with 3:26 to play to cut Olathe’s lead to one, then absorbed a bump down low, finished and drew the foul at 2:45; he made the free throw. Spruill went up strong in the quarter’s waning seconds and finished, tying the game at 32 after three. In a tightly contested fourth quarter – no team had a lead greater than four during the final eight minutes – the Skiers came up short. They lost for the first time since Dec. 16.”It’s tough, but we played without Cory, and they were at full strength. Then [Spruill] has a big night. Taking all that into consideration, we still had a chance to win,” Ketchum said. “It just didn’t happen.”Aspen girls fall, 51-45The Skiers girls’ bid for a comeback win, in the much the same fashion as their male counterparts, came up a bit short Friday.

Aspen, which trailed by as many as 12 during the first half, cut the Olathe lead to four with 3:58 to play in the fourth. They could get no closer, however, and lost, 51-45.”They never once quit,” Aspen coach Jeremy Haack said. “I’m so proud of the effort and how hard they played. They’re all tough competitors and really want to win.”Aspen struggled to keep pace with Olathe during the first half. The Pirates closed the first quarter on a 9-2 run – seven coming from junior Joya L’Ecuyer – to take a 13-7 lead. Skiers junior guard Julia Hassall buried a 3-pointer, and Grace Seigle converted two free throws on consecutive possessions to cut Olathe’s lead to 17-14 with 2:43 to play in the second. The Pirates again responded by stringing together a 10-2 run to end the half. They led, 25-14 at the break.

Seigle, who finished with a game-high 19 points, buried two 3-pointers in the third quarter – one at the buzzer – to cut the Aspen deficit to seven. She scored eight points in the fourth quarter.Skiers senior Taylor Schlepp found some space in transition and finished from close range at 3:58 to cut the Olathe lead to 40-36. Sophomore Briana Vigil put things out of reach, however, when she shook free underneath and finished off the glass, giving the Pirates an eight-point cushion with 1:26 to play. Aspen, which lost to Olathe by 34 Jan. 12, got no closer than five the rest of the way.The Skiers take on Roaring Fork in today’s regular-season finale.”I love this team,” Haack said. “They’ve improved so much. I hate to see this season come to an end.” Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is

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