Tale of two blowouts | AspenTimes.com

Tale of two blowouts

Jordan Curet The Aspen Times

ASPEN As a Basalt in-bounder scanned the floor late in the second quarter, she spotted junior Melissa Stewart standing alone in the far corner. Stewart waited patiently, took the pass and buried the 3-pointer to extend the Longhorns girls basketball team’s lead to seven against rival Aspen.The run Basalt fans and players had been waiting for – and the Skiers had successfully avoided for the game’s first 15 minutes – was underway. The Longhorns closed the second quarter on a 10-0 run, including six in the final minute, then opened the third on a 14-0 run to all but seal the game. Basalt, the top team in 3A, cruised to the 58-35 victory, handing Aspen its fourth straight defeat.”We finally started playing Longhorn basketball, but there’s so much more we can do,” Basalt coach Carolyn Compton said. “I told them I absolutely wasn’t satisfied.” The Longhorns, perhaps suffering the ill effects of a long layoff – they last played Dec. 18 – struggled in every phase during the first quarter. The Skiers took advantage, jumping out to an early 6-3 lead. Hailey Guglielmo’s jumper in the lane sparked a 6-2 run to close the quarter for Basalt, which led 11-9 after eight minutes. The Longhorns would have been comfortably ahead had it not been for paltry free-throw shooting; they missed 11 of their 17 first-half attempts.Aspen guard Kylie Westerlind found a hole in Basalt’s ball-hawking defense to nail a 3-pointer and tie the game at 13 with 412 minutes to play before halftime. Then Stewart picked off a lazy pass and scored in transition after teammates Kat Fitzpatrick and Emily Peetz both went 1-of-2 from the free throw line. “She had the chance to start for Emily before the break, and it was perfect for her,” Compton said of Stewart. “She understands that she belongs out on the court … She has such a nice shot.”

Stewart’s touch was on full display moments later when she nailed a 3-pointer to break open what was a two possession game. Seconds before the half, Dayne Toney stretched the Basalt lead to 10 when she finished underneath. The Longhorns (5-1 overall, 2-0 3A Western Slope) were off and running from there. They flexed their muscle and size on the offensive glass and ramped up their defense, jumping into passing lanes to frustrate Aspen (3-4, 0-2) and generate multiple easy transition buckets.

Fitzpatrick, who scored 12 of her 19 points in the second half, picked off three passes in the third quarter and finished on the opposite end.”I wasn’t really worried, I knew we had it in us,” Fitzpatrick said. “We started to play like we usually do, and we ran with it.”Aspen coach Jeremy Haack burned two timeouts in the third quarter in an attempt to thwart Basalt runs, but saw his team’s deficit balloon to 20 entering the fourth.”They’re a great team, and our girls came out and played hard as expected,” he added. “If we play as hard as we did tonight, we’ll win some games.”Toney and Peetz combined for 20 points – 17 in the second half – for the Longhorns, who continued to pull away in the fourth. Senior guard Julia Hassall, who battled foul trouble for much of the second half, finished with nine points for the Skiers.”We were a bit flat, and I think the break had a lot to do with it,” Fitzpatrick said. “We need to come out and be motivated for a four quarters.”

Aspen boys 82, Basalt 33If Aspen was looking ahead, it didn’t show it. The Skiers, who square off with Roaring Fork today in a battle of two of the state’s top 10 teams, quickly and dominantly dispatched rival Basalt on Friday in front of a packed home gym. Aspen opened the game on a 13-0 run, stretched its lead to 15 at halftime and cruised to the 80-33 victory – its second lopsided win in as many games since returning from the holiday break. The Skiers (5-2, 2-0) routed Hotchkiss, 94-24, on Jan. 5.”They came out really focused and really motivated and played well together,” Aspen coach Steve Ketchum said. “Our goal was to keep them under 40, and we met that goal.”While Aspen’s defense stifled Basalt in the opening quarter – Longhorns guard Connor Rakowski scored all seven of his team’s points in the first eight minutes – Skiers center Michael Taylor led the charge on offense. Basalt focused much of its attention on Cory Parker, allowing Taylor to shake free on the interior on multiple occasions. He scored seven in the first, including a dunk that brought the crowd to its feet.

That trend would continue in the second as Taylor, who finished with 15 (13 in the first half) rattled the rim three more times as the Skiers widened their lead.Rakowski, who finished with 15, sank a jumper to open the second half. Then, Aspen pulled away. Tommy Rittenhouse sank four consecutive 3-pointers and Parker scored seven of his nine points in a third quarter in which the Skiers outscored Basalt, 27-8. The Skiers, with much of their starters sitting on the bench in warm-ups, opened the fourth with a 12-2 run. From there, they coasted to their fifth straight win over their downvalley rivals.Things will be much tougher today in Carbondale.”It’s going to be an absolute dog fight,” Ketchum said. “Both teams want to win like crazy, both teams know a championship is on the line, and both teams are state-ranked. … It should be a close game.” jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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