Winter preps season starts today
Tis the season to be ballin’ – that, swimming or playing hockey.After more than two weeks of preseason practices, the local high school winter sports season starts today when the Basalt girls basketball team tips off against Rifle at 5:30 p.m. The Longhorns boys take on the Bears at 7 p.m. Basalt boys basketball coach Mike Green said his team is eager to play a game that counts after a four-team scrimmage on Saturday.”After you’ve practiced for a couple of weeks, I think you’re always ready to get ahold of somebody else,” said Green, whose team finished second in the 3A Western Slope last season. “Our hope is to pick up where we left off last year. I think we’re in pretty good shape. We do a lot of running and scrimmaging in practice, so we should be ready.”Four of the six winter sports teams for Aspen begin play on Friday. The boys and girls basketball teams host Eagle Valley at 6:30 and 8 p.m., respectively, in the opening game of the Aspen Invitational. The nonleague tournament runs through Saturday. The Skiers hockey team is also playing host to a pre-holiday-break tournament, beginning with a game against state runner-up Battle Mountain at 7 p.m. Friday at Lewis Ice Arena. The Skiers then will play either Steamboat Springs or Summit on Saturday.The Aspen girls swimming team also hosts its first meet of the season at 4 p.m. Friday at the Aspen Recreation Center against Fruita Monument. Aspen girls basketball coach Dave Conarroe said he loves this time of the year. Depending on how his team plays next weekend at the annual Steamboat Shootout, the 3A Skiers could face six 4A teams in their first seven games before the holiday break.”It’s good that we’re going to play at a higher level,” Conarroe said. “What we’re going to be able to do is see where we are at. If we stand up to the competition in these first games, then I’d say we’re right on track. If we get the doors blown off, then we’ve got some work to do. I only lost one starter from last season, so hopefully we’ll stand up to the test of a tougher preseason this year.”The Skiers hockey team will also see how it immediately stacks up at home Friday. The Rocky Mountain News ranked Aspen No. 3 in the state in its preseason poll. Battle Mountain was sixth.”I don’t really care about preseason rankings,” Skiers coach Mark LeRose said. “I care more about postseason rankings.”Friday also marks the first game of LeRose’s second stint as the head coach of the Aspen program. After leading the Skiers to a 30-7 record during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, which included back-to-back state final four appearances at state, LeRose left to be an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin. Last year he coached a top-tier junior team in Sioux Falls, S.D. He said he’s excited to be back in Aspen. He’s also fired up about this year’s team.”I’m very pleasantly surprised with the depth of our talent,” LeRose said. “Our strength is really our defense. We have a lot of talented players. Since I’ve been away for the past two seasons, I really couldn’t tell you who Battle Mountain’s best players are. I just know it should be a good game.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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