Skiers slide by Rams for 3A district title |

Skiers slide by Rams for 3A district title

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Jeff Caspersen Post IndependentRoaring Fork's Trae Moxley puts up a shot over Aspen's Jake Nugent during Saturday's 3A Western Slope League district tournament boys championship game.

PALISADE, Colorado – As Austin Roark smiled and celebrated, the 3A Western Slope League district tournament title plaque cradled in his arm, his coach took notice.

“Make sure you bring that thing back to school on Monday!” Aspen boys basketball frontman Steven Ketchum joked.

Roark, whose Skiers had just defeated Roaring Fork, 47-37, in Saturday’s district championship at Palisade High School, cherished that plaque for good reason. The senior big man, who moved to Aspen from New Mexico this school year, has now played a part in four district titles. The first three came in his previous state of residence.

“It feels amazing,” said Roark, who was a standout at Manzano High School prior to donning a Skiers jersey.

He then turned his attention to his teammates.

“These guys are so nice. It could have been really easy to turn their heads at me, this new guy, but they’re really great. It’s a great group of guys. They deserve this.”

Roark scored 14 points, Jake Nugent 12 and Quinn Morehead eight as Aspen captured its fourth district title in five years. In the process, the Skiers avenged last year’s district championship loss to Roaring Fork.

Aspen built a big lead early, extending a 14-7 lead after one quarter to 23-7 with 4 minutes, 32 seconds left in the second.

The Skiers (18-4) had to endure a series of furious rallies to hold off the Rams, who pulled to within 23-20 early in the third quarter by keeping Aspen off the scoreboard for nearly eight minutes. Thirteen straight points complemented the defensive feat.

“I knew it’d be a battle,” Ketchum said. “I knew they’d make a run at us, and they sure did. Hats off to them. I thought our guys just hung in there at the end.”

The Skiers reversed their dry spell with an 8-0 run to go up 31-20 with 3:24 left in the third quarter. Roaring Fork pulled to within four points early in the fourth quarter, but that is as close as the Rams got.

“Aspen played really well,” Roaring Fork coach Larry Williams said. “They played well last night [against Coal Ridge] and real well again tonight. We worked extremely hard, but just couldn’t overcome [the slow start]. We’d cut it down, and then we’d leave somebody open for a 3 or throw the ball away.”

Sam Carpenter led the Rams (15-7) with 14 points. Trae Moxley added 11.

“Give it to Roaring Fork,” Roark said. “I thought they played a heck of a game. I thought they had a great game plan. They’re a really good team. Watch out for them in the tournament.”

Aspen kept one of the Rams’ top offensive threats – Dakotah Grett – out of the scorebook.

“One of our unsung heroes, super sophomore Clayton Crawford, literally shut out No. 24, who I thought was their best athlete,” Ketchum said. “That’s Clayton Crawford for you. He does all the little stuff nobody notices.”

Both the Skiers and Rams will learn their playoff fate when Class 3A’s 32-team brackets are released by the Colorado High School Activities Association this afternoon. With a district title in the bag, Aspen will host a sub-regional.

“We get a home regional,” Ketchum said. “You can’t ask for more than that.”

Coal Ridge’s boys outgunned Rifle, 71-51, in Saturday’s third-place game.

Darik Brown paced the Titans (10-12) with 19 points. Cody Walls scored 15 and Tyler Guettler finished with 10.

Taylor Webb led Rifle (9-14) with 13 points. Tanner Rust added 10, Tanner Quick nine and Trenton Brown eight.

Both teams are bound for Class 3A’s 32-team state playoffs.

By outgunning Grand Valley, 56-39, in Saturday’s fifth-place game, Olathe’s boys secured the 3A WSL’s fifth and final state playoff berth.

Richard Tafoya scored 16 points and Taylor Carlson finished with 14 as the Pirates improved to 15-7.

Trent Reidle’s 13 points led the Cardinals, who wrapped their season with a 13-9 record.

Grand Valley scored just three points in the third quarter.

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