Skiers survive stiff test |

Skiers survive stiff test

Jon Maletz
Longhorns senior Rory Johnson looks to pass as Aspen's Brian Westerlind defends Friday at Basalt high School. The Skiers won, 60-51. (Jim Paussa/Aspen Times)

Aspen, CO ColoradoBASALT With less than two minutes to play in Friday’s game in Basalt, Aspen’s Tommy Rittenhouse gave Skiers coaches, players and fans a reason to finally exhale.Longhorns senior Duncan McDaniel, his team trailing by four with 1:45 remaining in the fourth, took the ball out from underneath Basalt’s hoop. He spotted an open teammate near the top of the key and lofted a pass. Rittenhouse, who followed McDaniel’s eyes like a football safety, stepped in front of the passing lane, stole the ball and dribbled the length of the court to stretch Aspen’s lead to six. Finally the Skiers (4-2 overall, 1-0 3A Western Slope), who entered Friday’s rivalry game as heavy favorites, had distanced themselves. They overcame sluggish play and a double digit first half deficit to top Basalt, 60-51.”That hurt us, it was a four-point swing,” Basalt head coach Michael Green said. “We could’ve cut the lead to two. Still, we were right there, but turnovers late hurt us.”Basalt (0-5, 0-1) turned the ball over on the ensuing possession. Skiers junior Cory Parker calmly sank two free throws – two of his 10 points in the fourth and 27 overall – to give Aspen an eight-point edge with one minute to play.Aspen was 7-of-10 from the line in the final minute to maintain its lead and escape with the win.”It does not matter who has the better team, this game is always close,” Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum said. “In league play, anyone can win on any given night. You never know what’s going to happen.

“They could’ve gotten us and probably should’ve.”The Longhorns opened on a 12-0 run in the game’s first four minutes, prompting Ketchum to burn an early timeout. After going scoreless for nearly five minutes, Parker absorbed a bump down low to put Aspen on the board. Skiers senior Brian Westerlind scored the team’s only other first quarter basket, and Aspen trailed 14-4 heading into the second. Basalt sophomore Taylor Foreman-Niko shadowed Parker and contested nearly every shot in the lane with his 6-foot-3 frame, coming away with multiple blocks. He had six points in the first and 15 in the game.The Skiers cut into the lead with 3-pointers from Rittenhouse and Parker in the opening minute of the second quarter. Parker knotted the score at 16 with two free throws, then passed off to a wide open Michael Taylor for a layup to give Aspen the edge.Basalt did not fold. Junior Connor Rakowski responded with back-to-back 3-pointers, and the Longhorns closed on a 9-2 run to take a 25-20 lead into the break. The lead could’ve been greater; Basalt was just 1-of-7 from the foul line in the first half.”We started off slow,, and they found the weakness in our defense and attacked,” Parker said. “I think we were overconfident. Basalt is a great team that is capable of pulling off an upset, but we worked our way back.”Basalt led by as many as seven in the third, but struggled on offense. With the game tied at 36, Parker took the ball down low, gathered his own rebound and tapped the ball in. On the ensuing possession, he faked out Taylor at the top of the key and had a clear lane to the rim to stretch the lead to four.Basalt, which trailed by five after three quarters, opened the fourth with a 7-2 run to tie the score. Rakowski and Rory Johnson shook free underneath for easy baskets, and McDaniel buried a long 3-pointer with 6:07 to play.

From there, Aspen looked to Parker and he delivered.”I consider this an ugly win, but it’s a win,” Parker said. “There’s no way we’d be able to get back in the game if we played like this against Roaring Fork, but I think this was a positive.Aspen hosts the Rams today at 4 p.m.Longhorns girls rout SkiersDon’t blink when you’re watching the Basalt girls basketball team. Odds are, you’ll miss a transition bucket if you do.The running Longhorns took command early Friday, opening up an 18-4 advantage after one quarter of play against rival Aspen. They clogged passing lanes and forced numerous turnovers that turned into easy layups. The Skiers could do little to slow Basalt, and fell, 71-41.”I told them I was proud of them, that this was a great win,” Basalt head coach Carolyn Compton said. “But we can’t be satisfied. If you’re satisfied, you’re not getting better. We know where we want to be, and we have a lot to work on.”

That’s a scary thought for the rest of the Slope. Basalt frustrated its opponent with a combination of man-to-man and zone, sometimes trapping Skiers ball handlers out near half court. Aspen standout Julia Hassall had just six points in the first half and Aspen trailed by 18 at the break.”I thought we could make a run,” Aspen head coach Jeremy Haack said. “I told the girls to try and cut the lead in half, then we’d see where we are. It’s hard to play catch-up, but the girls didn’t quit.”Aspen (1-5) opened the second half with a full-court press that generated some turnovers, but they could pull no closer than 15 during the final 16 minutes. Once Compton called a timeout to give her players a game plan on how to attack the pressure, the track meet continued. Hassall scored 16 points in the second half for Aspen. Senior Katy Mulcahy scored 22 for the Longhorns, who dominated despite being without arguably their best player.Junior Dayne Toney slammed her left hand in the hatch of a car and lost the tip of her middle finger. The Longhorns expect her back after the Christmas break.In Toney’s absence, everyone else on the roster came up big, Compton said.”Everyone was playing well,” Compton said. “Our goal was to have each player go out and make some difference in the game. There wasn’t one girl I could say didn’t do that.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is

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