Top-seeded Aspen throttles Hotchkiss | AspenTimes.com
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Top-seeded Aspen throttles Hotchkiss

Jon MaletzThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

ASPEN Aspen senior Michael Taylor’s two dunks in the opening minute of the fourth quarter provided the exclamation point, but this game was over far earlier.

The top-seeded Skiers dominated from start to finish and in every facet against eighth-seeded Hotchkiss on Wednesday. They led by 14 after one quarter, outscored the Bulldogs 26-6 in the second and, in a game that played out much like the two regular-season meetings, rolled to a 90-29 victory. Aspen won its 16th straight, assured itself a state tournament berth and clinched a spot in Friday’s district semifinals against fourth-seeded Coal Ridge at 8 p.m. at Palisade High School. “When you’re able to play your game against a team like Hotchkiss, it shows a lot of character and discipline,” Skiers senior Cory Parker said. While Hotchkiss (1-16) turned the ball over on each of its first three possessions, Aspen jumped out to a seven-point lead and scored 14 of the game’s first 16 points. Bulldogs defenders had trouble contending with both the Skiers’ size and their defensive pressure. After Parker nailed a 3 from the wing to give Aspen a 10-2 advantage, he and teammate Andrew Papenfus scored consecutive buckets off steals generated by the full-court press. Six different Skiers scored in the opening eight minutes.The game was blown wide open in the second. Troy Benson’s 3-pointer in the opening minute proved to be Hotchkiss’ only field goal in the quarter as it struggled to penetrate the Aspen defense or find open looks. The Skiers, meanwhile, erupted with 26 points on 12 field goals – many coming on lay-ups. During one stretch, Aspen reeled off 18 consecutive points. Parker had 15 of his game-high 24 in the first half, outscoring the Bulldogs all by himself, and Aspen took a commanding 48-14 lead into the break.

Taylor sank three shots from close range in the opening two minutes of the third to help Aspen maintain its momentum. He, Parker and fellow starter Brian Westerlind scored 14 of the Skiers’ 16 points in the quarter. Westerlind and Taylor combined for 25 points.The fourth quarter belonged to Trevor Watson. The junior scored nine of his 13 points in the final frame, scoring underneath, once from 3 and sinking both of his free throw attempts. He and fellow reserves accounted for 18 of Aspen’s 25 points in the quarter. “It was good to see different players step up,” Parker said. “That’s what it’s going to take when we play tougher teams down the road.”We always want competition, but it’s good to get that confidence again. … We’re used to playing someone who’s weaker, then going against a team like Roaring Fork. We won’t miss a beat. We know what’s coming.”Next is a matchup with Coal Ridge, which Aspen beat handily in two regular-season meetings. Looming is a potential championship game rematch Saturday with Roaring Fork, where the opportunity to host a four-team regional for the first two rounds of the state tournament will likely be on the line. While the Skiers won both meetings against the Rams this season, the two games were decided by a total of six points.

“Now the road gets tough,” Aspen coach Steve Ketchum said. “Every team we play from here on out will be good. I’m glad we had fun tonight, because things are going to get serious real fast.””We don’t want this to be our last home game,” Parker added.In other action Wednesday, sixth-seeded Basalt’s season came to an end after a 69-45 loss to third-seeded Gunnison. The Cowboys will face second-seeded Roaring Fork, a 65-31 winner against Olathe on Wednesday, in Friday’s other district semifinal.jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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