At long last, Rams boys topple Aspen | PostIndependent.com
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At long last, Rams boys topple Aspen

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent
ALL |

CARBONDALE, Colorado – After eight straight losses to Western Slope foe Aspen, the Roaring Fork boys basketball team was not about to let this opportunity slip away.

The Rams squandered nearly all of their 10-point halftime lead in the third quarter Saturday against the visiting Skiers. Clay Gross, Dalton Handy and Trent Reeds came to the home team’s rescue, knockking down three shots from beyond the arc in the final 3 minutes of the third quarter to restore order and propel Roaring Fork to a long-awaited 62-56 victory over its upvalley rivals.

“We were talking about it. We haven’t beaten them in three seasons,” Rams head coach Larry Williams said. “Yeah, this is [a big win], but we were just focusing on trying to improve.”



Added Skiers head coach Steve Ketchum: “What a great start, wasn’t it? I just wish we could’ve ended it right there. … We have a lot of youth and tremendous inexperience. We’re making a lot of bad choices with the ball.”

Four different players scored during the game’s first four-plus minutes for Aspen, which jumped out to a 9-3 lead. Soon after, Skiers standout Bridger Dawson was whistled for his second foul and took a seat on the bench.



Roaring Fork capitalized, scoring the quarter’s final five points – on a drive from Trae Moxley and a 3 from Dakotah Grett – to cut the Aspen lead to one heading to the second quarter.

Even with Dawson in the lineup in the second, Aspen struggled to run its offense and generate open looks against a tightly packed Rams defense.

Roaring Fork (5-3 overall, 2-0 3A Western Slope) had no such problem. It found plenty of room with which to operate thanks largely to crisp ball movement and good spacing. Grett scored on a drive to the basket 6 minutes, 17 seconds before halftime, then he sank two free throws, helping spark a 13-0 Rams run.

Had it not been for the play of guard Quinn Morehead, who routinely and aggressively took defenders off the dribble and scored eight points in the first 16 minutes, the Skiers would have been all but out of the game by halftime.

They wasted little time chipping away at the Roaring Fork lead in the third quarter. Jake Nugent converted a three-point play on the first possession of the second half, then Morehead picked off a pass and sped the other way for a lay-up and Dawson hit two free throws.

With 4:36 remaining, Dawson pulled down an offensive rebound on a missed Nugent free throw, drew a foul and hit an acrobatic runner. He converted the ensuing free throw, trimming the Rams’ lead to 32-30.

“We had a stretch where we had five or six turnovers in a row,” Williams said. “I was proud that, once they settled down, they were able to step up.”

Dawson was whistled for his third and fourth fouls just 23 seconds apart, sending the big man to the bench with 3:34 remaining in the third. The Rams took advantage.

Reeds hit a jumper in the lane, then he, Gross and Handy converted open looks from 3 to cap a 11-4 run that put Roaring Fork ahead, 44-34.

“Dalton, Clay, Sam [Carpenter] and Dakotah took care of the ball really well and were so patient,” Jake Strack-Loertscher said. “This is how we play. When we’re getting our butts kicked, we start to wake up.”

Added Williams: “We started hitting some outside shots. That gave the kids the confidence to continue to shoot.”

Most of the Rams’ shots came from the foul line in the fourth quarter. The home team made 10-of-12 attempts in the final 8 minutes to hold off Aspen, which could pull no closer than six.

In between those foul shots, Roaring Fork spread the floor and drained precious time off the clock. Strack-Loertscher shook free for three uncontested lay-ups in the final 4 minutes to put the game out of reach. He finished with 12 points, while Grett pitched in with 14.

Dawson and Morehead scored 15 and 16 points, respectively, for the Skiers, who dropped to 3-5 and 0-2 in conference play.

“The guys don’t quit. They fight and play hard … but they just haven’t played enough together,” Ketchum said. “Our goal is to keep getting better, to get some wins and to be that team that gets to the playoffs that nobody wants to play.”

Aspen girls basketball coach Jeremy Haack just shook his head. It’s not every day that a team that turns the ball over 34 times comes out on top.

But such was the case in Saturday’s sloppy but dramatic bout with Roaring Fork in Carbondale. Haack’s squad rallied from a five-point deficit in the third quarter, leaned on junior Bailey Everhart to build a small cushion in the fourth and held on for a 46-40 win, improving to 2-5 overall and 1-1 in league play.

“We’ve been battling sickness and injuries all week and had a tough game [Friday] night. But I’ll tell you what, give credit to these 11 girls,” Haack said. “They stepped up big time on the road.”

The Skiers appeared to show no ill effects from Friday’s home loss to Coal Ridge, surging ahead, 11-3 in the first 5 minutes Saturday. Everhart and guard Jonelle Berklund combined for seven points during the run.

The Rams regrouped in the final 2 minutes of the quarter, when Sharlene Salina and Megan Gianinetti scored baskets and Stephanie Ayala pulled down an offensive rebound and finished off the glass, cutting the Aspen lead to 14-11.

Neither squad could pull away during a second quarter in which both fouls and turnovers piled up. Roaring Fork finally got some breathing room in the third quarter, scoring eight straight to take a 33-28 lead.

Moments before the buzzer, Anna Stevens buried a clutch 3, trimming the Skiers’ deficit to two at 35-33.

“Going into the fourth, I told the girls, ‘Anna just got it started for you,'” Haack said.

Everhart helped finish things, scoring nine of her 15 points in the final quarter. During one stretch, she scored underneath on a back-pick lob play, then in transition to put the Skiers ahead, 42-38, with about 3 minutes to play.

The Rams’ efforts to rally were hampered by their struggles at the foul line; Roaring Fork (0-8, 0-2) missed 11-of-12 from the stripe in the fourth.

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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