Rams roll past Bears, face Skiers in finals
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
PALISADE, Colorado – In the wake of a 47-34 win over Rifle in Friday’s 3A Western Slope League district tournament semifinals at Palisade High School, Larry Williams had no intentions of relaxing as he watched the night’s second semifinal.
“Relax?” the Roaring Fork boys basketball coach said. “What’s that? That won’t happen until late March.”
He could have taken it easy as he took in that second game – a matchup between Aspen and Coal Ridge – but playoff basketball offers no respite for a coach. Even if his or her team isn’t playing, there’s always something to keep a coach busy – game-planning, scouting, something.
Williams’ Rams aim to keep their coach from relaxation for as long as possible, and they took a step in that direction on Friday.
Though it got off to a sluggish, turnover-filled start, Roaring Fork earned a berth in the today’s 5:45 p.m. title game against Aspen by finishing with a flourish against the Bears.
Outscoring Rifle by a 28-18 count in the second half, the Rams rolled.
“We picked it up and started playing some good defense,” Roaring Fork senior Trenton Reeds said. “We had to pick it up on defense. We were letting them have a lot of fastbreaks and easy buckets.”
Reeds’ Rams trailed after a quarter, 6-5. They went up 19-16 at halftime and 31-26 after three quarters.
While pleased with the result, Williams would have like to have seen a more graceful effort from his team.
“It obviously wasn’t how we wanted to be performing this time of year, but give credit to Rifle,” he said. “They caused a lot of that. I think we just came out tight. We shot so well Wednesday [in a quarterfinal win over Hotchkiss] that I think we came out and missed the first couple shots and I think we started to panic.”
But that panic eventually subsided.
Reeds and big man Trae Moxley led Roaring Fork (15-6) with 13 points apiece. Sam Carpenter scored 12 and Clay Gross seven.
Taylor Webb led Rifle, which will face rival Coal Ridge in today’s 2:15 p.m. third-place game, with seven points. Trenton Brown scored six for the Bears, who dropped to 9-13 overall.
It didn’t take long for Aspen to eliminate virtually all suspense in Friday’s other semifinal.
Scoring 27 of the game’s first 29 points – no, that’s not a typo – the Skiers cruised to a 56-32 win over Coal Ridge.
Aspen will face Roaring Fork in today’s district title game.
“We missed a few easy ones to start, and I think it just kind of got in our heads,” Titans coach Paul Harvey said.
Jake Nugent’s 18 points led Aspen, which improved to 17-4. Austin Roark finished with 13 and James Powell scored nine on three 3-pointers.
Skiers coach Steve Ketchum certainly didn’t expect such a lopsided final score. His squad won the teams’ previous two meetings by much slimmer margins (51-45 on Jan. 6 and 60-55 on Jan. 31).
“We had two huge battles with them this year, two really close games,” he said. “The last one, we survived. They led us for 31 minutes and we took the lead with 60 seconds left. I was expecting something similar to that.”
But stingy defense and high-percentage looks put to rest any chance of a close game early.
“Our defensive intensity at the start of the game was just awesome,” Ketchum said.
Darik Brown led Coal Ridge (9-12) with 11 points. Cody Walls added five for the Titans, who face Rifle in today’s third-place game.
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