Aspen boys basketball beats Grand Valley to open district play

Skiers play Coal Ridge on Friday in semifinals

Aspen High School boys basketball's Ben Godomsky defends as the team hosts Grand Valley on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, in the Western Slope League district quarterfinals inside the AHS gymnasium. Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

Those 19 prior wins and that undefeated regular-season record? It doesn’t mean a whole lot now that the postseason has arrived.

The Aspen High School boys basketball team pushed reset on its season Tuesday night with the opening of the district tournament, rolling over visiting Grand Valley 69-38 inside the AHS gymnasium.

“The pressure kind of subsided a little bit after 19-0. At this point, the postseason, we are kind of starting over again. It’s a 0-0 record,” AHS coach Cory Parker said. “We need to win every single game. So I don’t think the record as much as the pressure of just them putting on the pressure of winning a state championship. It is now the goal and the focus.”

Aspen, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, had little issue with No. 8 seed Grand Valley, which had played the night before in a 51-39 win over No. 9 North Fork in the district play-in game. The Skiers’ 31-point victory on Tuesday was similar to the 65-39 win over the Cardinals back on Jan. 29 in Aspen, the only other time the teams had played this season.

The rematch came in front of a raucous home crowd, the students decked out in black, the dance team cheering from the sideline and only a few masks to be found after Pitkin County’s mask mandate officially ended earlier that morning.

“A lot of guys had some nerves they were battling. Super excited about senior night, super excited about having the most fans we’ve had all year. So I think guys were kind of getting into that,” Parker said. “We started at a fairly good tempo, fairly good pace, and at that same time trying to control the ball and trying not to turn the ball over and make little mistakes. We did get quite a few more turnovers than we normally average. A lot of that just because we were trying to do too much, show off for the fans as best they could.”

Aspen led 14-6 after a quarter, and Grand Valley kept it closer a few minutes into the second quarter, but by halftime AHS had built a 36-18 lead and never looked back after that. It was 49-21 after three quarters.

Aspen, now 20-0 overall, next moves onto the district semifinals, where they will play No. 5 seed Coal Ridge at 2 p.m. Friday in a game hosted by Grand Junction Central High School. The Titans held on to beat No. 4 Gunnison on Tuesday night in the quarterfinals, 51-48. Aspen and Coal Ridge played as recently as Thursday in the regular-season finale, a 74-56 AHS win.

“We want to see them again. Some of these teams haven’t seen our four quarters of play,” Parker said. “They’ve seen two, two and a half, maybe three, but I don’t know if any of them have really seen a full four quarter basketball game from us. We are always excited for those opportunities to go play a team again.”

The other semifinal on Friday, scheduled for 5 p.m. in Grand Junction, will be between No. 3 Moffat County and No. 2 Delta. Moffat held on to beat No. 6 Basalt on Tuesday 59-50, while Delta cruised over No. 7 Roaring Fork 72-44.

Not only are the teams vying for the right to be the district champion — that game will take place Saturday, also in Grand Junction — but the two teams that advance to the final will earn an automatic berth in the Class 3A state tournament. The remaining 18 teams who do not automatically qualify into the 32-team bracket will need to make the field based off RPI.

With an RPI of around 60 as of Tuesday night, Basalt’s season likely ended at 7-13 overall with the loss to Moffat County.

Aspen, however, is looking far beyond the district tournament and should be in position to host a couple of games in the regional rounds of the state tournament.

“That’s how we got to look at every single game, that this is the postseason,” Parker said. “We can’t just look at who we are playing. We got to look at preparing ourselves — we should be playing the best basketball we’ve been playing all year. I think we showed glimpses of it tonight.”

Also Tuesday, the No. 6-seeded Basalt girls lost 44-31 at No. 3 Moffat County. With an RPI of around 44 as of Tuesday night, that likely ends the Longhorns’ season at 7-13 overall.

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